U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is due to arrive in Israel on Sunday for a Middle East trip to discuss Iran, the Syrian civil war and weapons sales to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The Mideast trip will last about a week.
In Israel, Hagel is scheduled to meet with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon. On Sunday he is expected to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem, while Sunday night he will be Ya'alon's dinner guest at the David Citadel Hotel.
On Monday, Hagel and Ya'alon are expected to discuss the anticipated sale to Israel of U.S. military equipment including an undisclosed number of Bell Boeing V-22 transport helicopters and Boeing KC-135 inflight refueling planes, as well as advanced radar systems for fighter planes and antiradiation missiles.
Israeli officials say the arms deal aims in part to preserve Israel's military superiority in light of weapons contracts with other countries in the region.
Ayalon and Hagel are expected to hold a press conference after their meeting Monday. In the afternoon, Hagel is scheduled to meet with Peres to discuss military issues and ways to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The U.S. Defense Department has called Hagel's visit a continuation of contacts following President Barack Obama's trip here last month. The Iranian nuclear issue will be front and center in Hagel's defense-related meetings, along with the changing situation in Syria. On Monday, an honor guard will be on hand at Tel Aviv's Kirya army base to honor Hagel.
From Israel, the defense secretary will travel to Amman to discuss the implications of Syria's civil war on Jordan, before proceeding on to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. In the UAE Hagel is expected to move to finalize the sale of 25 F-16 fighter planes. The deal is set to include training in the United States of UAE combat pilots.
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