The UAE denied this week it had shipped US missiles to Libya, which is under a UN arms embargo, after a democratic senator warned Washington cut weapons sales to the country over the claims.
Emirati foreign ministry hit back in a statement carried by the state WAM news agency, denying “the ownership of weapons found in Libya” and reiterating “the UAE’s commitment to fully cooperate with United Nations experts”.
“It also urges all parties to deescalate tensions and reengage in the UN-led political process,” the statement added.
Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, demanded an investigation into claims that the UAE shipped US missiles to Libya on Tuesday.
In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the senator called for explanations on arms agreements with the UAE by 15 July.
It came after The New York Times reported on Friday that forces loyal to Libya’s unity government had discovered four Javelin missiles at a base used by men under the command of Khalifa Haftar, who has waged a months-long offensive to take Tripoli.
The newspaper claimed that markings on the missiles indicated they had been sold to the UAE in 2008.
“You are surely aware that if these allegations prove true you may be obligated by law to terminate all arms sales to the UAE,” Menendez wrote.
He warned that the transfer would be a “serious violation” of US law and “almost certainly” break the UN arms embargo on Libya.
Menendez told Pompeo that the alleged arms transfer to Libya was “particularly alarming” as it came shortly after US President Donald Trump’s administration bypassed Congress to approve $8.1 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Lawmakers fear that the weapons will be used to kill civilians in Yemen, where the two Gulf allies have led an international coalition war which has left thousands dead and millions on the brink of starvation.
Democratic senators and a handful of Republicans last month voted to block the sale but did not have enough votes to override a veto by Trump.
The secretary of state said the sale was an emergency necessity motivated due to rising tensions with Iran, which is a major backer of Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
“We take all allegations of misuse of US origin defence articles very seriously. We are aware of these reports and are seeking additional information,” a State Department spokesperson said on condition of anonymity.
“We expect all recipients of US origin defence equipment to abide by their end-use obligations.”