(Bloomberg) -- The United Arab Emirates believes US concerns about sensitive chip technology moving from the Middle East and into China are justified, according to a top official.  

“Sometimes you are a victim of the neighborhood you are in,” Omar Al Olama, the UAE’s minister for artificial intelligence and digital economy said in a Bloomberg Television interview on Tuesday. The region’s size has led to tangible concerns by US policymakers, according to the minister. 

The US has limited chip exports to the Middle East in part due to concerns that Chinese companies, which are largely cut off from cutting-edge American technology, could access them through data centers in the Middle East. President Joe Biden’s administration has been waging a broader campaign to keep advanced semiconductors and manufacturing equipment out of Beijing’s hands, for fear that the technology will be used to bolster its military.

“Any country that has adversaries would think that way,” Al Olama said. “The UAE has proven to be a strategic partner with the US.”

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The UAE is seeking support from the US to become a producer of advanced semiconductors, a crucial component of the supply chain for artificial intelligence. The oil rich country is making major investments to become a regional heavyweight in AI and has cut ties with China in the sector to assuage Washington’s worries. 

In April, Microsoft Corp. invested $1.5 billion in the UAE’s top AI firm, G42. That deal involved behind-the-scenes negotiations between the US and the Abu Dhabi-based company in which G42 agreed to divest from China and pivot to American technology. 

The deal with Microsoft, along with previous years of collaboration between the two allies, is a “continuation of a series of reassurances that the UAE has given,” Al Olama said. 

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G42’s partnerships include one with OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, which is teaming up with the Gulf firm as part of an expansion in the region. Microsoft is OpenAI’s biggest investor. 

UAE’s National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the chairman of G42. Microsoft’s investments in the company “cements the ability for the UAE and our national champions to work with OpenAI,” Al Olama said. 

--With assistance from Sarah Halls.

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