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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 16 January 2019

China exploits US reluctance with Middle East drone sales

New report identifies China as a 'no-questions-asked exporter' of drones to the region

China sees all countries in the Middle East as potential customers for its drone technology. AFP
China sees all countries in the Middle East as potential customers for its drone technology. AFP

China has moved to fill a gap in the market by supplying unarmed drones to the Middle East after the US restricted sales to prevent the proliferation of hi-tech missile technology, according to a report published on Monday.

Countries including Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have all bought drones from China, which prides itself on not taking any side in regional disputes, said the study by the British Royal United Services Institute think tank.

China sees all countries in the region as potential customers, particularly those facing threats from terrorism, according to the Armed Drones in the Middle East report.

Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia want to develop their own drone technology while Israel is viewed as a pioneer in the development and use of the technology.

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The US has operated a selective drone export policy to prevent proliferation and because of an unwillingness to share the satellite technology to other countries, including allies.

A group of 22 predominantly Republican members of the US Congress wrote to President Donald Trump last year urging him to relax the policy. Mr Trump has promised to make it easier to sell US-made military drones abroad but the pledge has not yet resulted in more sales.

“As a result, China, which is a no-questions-asked exporter of drones has played and is likely to continue playing a key role as a supplier…. to the Middle East,” said the report.

Updated: December 17, 2018 10:25 AM

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