FILE - An F-35 fighter jet pilot and crew prepare for a mission at Al-Dhafra Air Base, UAE, Aug. 5, 2019.
FILE - An F-35 fighter jet pilot and crew prepare for a mission at Al-Dhafra Air Base, UAE, Aug. 5, 2019. The Trump administration has formally notified Congress that it plans to sell 50 advanced F-35 fighter jets to the UAE. (Credit: U.S. Air Force)

Human Rights Watch said Tuesday the United States should not complete proposed weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates until that country limits illegal airstrikes against Libya and Yemen and stops providing military support to “abusive local forces.”

In a statement, HRW also called on the UAE to investigate “previous alleged violations” it is accused of committing in Libya and Yemen.

The advocacy group’s statement was released one day after 29 human rights and arms control groups signed and sent a letter to U.S. lawmakers and the U.S. State Department opposing the U.S. sale of $23 billion worth of fighter jets, missiles and drones to the UAE. They said the arms sale would result in more harm to civilians and worsen humanitarian crises caused by conflicts in Libya and Yemen.

HRW also urged the U.S. Congress to block the agreement to sell arms to the UAE.

“In continuing to sell weapons to the UAE, U.S. authorities are ignoring pervasive evidence of airstrikes and other attacks by the Saudi and UAE-led coalition in Yemen that unlawfully killed civilians,” said HRW Washington director Sarah Holewinski. “U.S. officials’ desire to reward the UAE for recognizing Israel should not entail complicity in unlawful deaths in Libya and Yemen.”

Reuters News Agency quoted the UAE embassy in Washington defending the arms sale. “Aligned closely with US interests and values, the UAE’s highly capable military is a forceful deterrent to aggression and an effective response to violent extremism,” the embassy was quoted as saying.

The U.S. and the UAE agreed to the sale after the U.S. brokered an agreement in September that called for the UAE to normalize relations with Israel.

Three U.S. senators proposed legislation in November to stop the sale, leading to a face-off with U.S. President Donald Trump before he leaves office on January 20. The measure must first be approved in the Senate and the House of Representatives by two-third majorities to survive a presidential veto.