US committed to preserving Israel's qualitative military edge in Middle East: Mark Esper

 The United States is committed to preserving Israel's qualitative military edge (QME) in the Middle East, US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper said before a meeting with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz at the Pentagon.

Esper made his remarks in light of concerns expressed by Israeli officials that the Trump administration may sell fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Israel is currently the only operator of F-35 aircraft in the Middle East region.

"A cornerstone of our defense relationship is preserving Israel's qualitative military edge in the region," Esper said on Tuesday. "The United States is committed to that and the Department of Defense is committed to that imperative. We will continue to support the long-standing US priority to maintain Israel’s QME."

US President Donald Trump previously said that he sees no problem with exporting fifth-generation aircraft to the UAE after the country signed a peace agreement with Israel and promised to work out any concerns.

White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner said the Trump administration will hold consultations with Israel before making a decision to sell F-35 jets.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress will be monitoring the situation closely and vowed that lawmakers would take action if necessary to preserve Israel's qualitative military advantage in the region.

After the meeting, Gantz touched on topics discussed.

"We talked about ways to leverage regional opportunity while confronting forces undermining stability. The US is an anchor of regional stability & our countries are mutually committed to deepening cooperation, while protecting Israel’s military edge–critical to regional security," Gantz said in a tweet after the talks in Washington.

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