Pompeo visits Israel to discuss West Bank annexation, Iran

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. left. is greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, Sunday, April 29, 2018. (Thomas Coex, AFP via AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes the hand of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo following their meeting in Jerusalem on October 18, 2019. (Photo by Sebastian Scheiner / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SEBASTIAN SCHEINER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Jerusalem, May 13 (IANS) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Israel on Wednesday to discuss the countrys plans to annex large segments of Palestinian territories, which is set to begin in July.

The visit comes amid the coronavirus pandemic and will also see discussion on political tensions with Iran.

Pompeo arrived with a small entourage and stepped off the plane sporting a face mask with the American flag, Efe news reported.

He travelled to Jerusalem to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz, both of whom are set to form a unity government after three inconclusive elections.

Israel’s state department said the visit was to discuss US and Israeli efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as regional security issues related to Iran’s malign influence.

“We will get the chance to talk about the Vision of Peace, we are now some months from the day that you came to Washington when President Trump announced that Vision of Peace when you were there,” Pompeo said at a joint presser with Netanyahu shortly after landing.

“There remains work yet to do and we need to make progress on that, I am looking forward to it,” he added.

The so-called Vision of Peace is a roadmap for the region designed by the White House which accounts for Israel’s primary requests, including US-backed plans to annex areas of the West Bank, but is rejected by the Palestinians.

“There is something else plaguing our region, which is unremitting Iranian aggression and terror and I want to express my appreciation of the strong position that the president and you and your administration put forward against Iran first by withdrawing from the dangerous Iran deal, second by taking head-on the masters of Iranian terror,” Netanyahu said.

Pompeo’s short visit is the first by a foreign politician to Israel since the country closed its borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The diplomatic exchange occurred on the eve of the inauguration of Israel’s unity government between Netanyahu and Gantz.

“Now that we are about to form a national unity government, tomorrow, I think that this is an opportunity to promote peace and security based on the understanding that are reached with President Trump in my last visit in Washington in January,” the Israeli PM told reporters.

“And these are all tremendous challenges and opportunities and we can do them because we have such a powerful bond that makes the alliance between Israel and the United States stand out.”

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