United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will arrive in the Middle East on Saturday night for a week-long visit that will include Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, the Pentagon confirmed on Wednesday.
Hagel will begin his regional swing in Israel, where he will meet with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon. The purpose of the visit, according to the Pentagon, is to "further the close military-to-military relationship between the United States and Israel." The statement went on to say that the visit is a follow-up to the three-day visit here last month by President Barack Obama and the announcement that the two countries will negotiate a new 10-year procurement deal. Hagel will also discuss "regional challenges including those presented by Iran and Syria."
Thereafter, Hagel will move on to Jordan, where he will discuss the situation in Syria and Jordanian-American cooperation ahead of various possible scenarios.
Last week, the outgoing commander of the head of the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Admiral James Stavridis visited Israel and met with top military leaders. In addition to seeking to shore up the recent rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, Stavridis said the purpose of his visit to Israel was to cement NATO's ties with Jerusalem.
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