UAE air force ‘one of world’s most capable’, says senior US security official

Jared Kushner among American delegation who visited Al Dhafra base on Tuesday

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The Emirati air force is one of the world’s most capable, a senior US security official said on Tuesday at the conclusion of a joint American-Israeli visit to the UAE.

Speaking at Al Dhafra airbase on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said the “reputation of the Emirati armed forces has gone worldwide".

“It is one of the most capable forces in the world and we are proud to partner with you and serve side by side with you," Mr O’Brien told UAE officials as he toured the base with senior White House adviser Jared Kushner.

The two men were among American and Israeli officials on board the historic first El Al flight that arrived in Abu Dhabi on Monday from Tel Aviv.

A General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon jet belonging to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force performs during the Dubai Airshow on November 18, 2013, in Dubai. Emirates Airline's appetite for aircraft purchases will not cease, the airline's president Tim Clark told AFP a day after the Dubai-based carrier ordered 200 planes from Boeing and Airbus. AFP PHOTO/KARIM SAHIB (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP)
A General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon jet belonging to the UAE air force performs during the Dubai Airshow on November 18, 2013. AFP

It was the first such trip since the UAE and Israel agreed in August to work towards normalising relations in a deal brokered by the US.

As part of the accord, Israel will halt all annexation of Palestinian territories in exchange for establishing diplomatic ties with the Emirates.

A statement on Monday by the three countries said that the accord is "a courageous step towards a more stable, integrated and prosperous the Middle East".

Falah Al Qahtani, a senior Emirati military official, received the visiting delegation at Al Dhafra base. The site is also used by the American military to operate advanced F-35 fighter jets and other assets in the region.

Mr O'Brien said that the US expected a "significant security aspect" in the Israel-UAE normalisation process although details have remained vague.

Mr Kusher shook hands with the US and Emirati pilots gathered for the event. He also left a written message at the base.

"May the relationship with America continues to grow and together, through strength, will benefit as we bring more peace and prosperity to the Middle East and beyond!" he wrote.

The El Al flight was set to depart shortly after the airbase visit, concluding the first direct round trip by a commercial passenger aircraft between the UAE and Israel.