Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz told U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday he hopes to "deepen our dialogue and cooperation" on Iran, including "joint military readiness to face Iran and to stop its regional aggression and nuclear aspirations."
Delivering a brief statement at the start of their meeting in Washington, Gantz stressed the "unshakable" bond between Israel and the U.S., adding: "I am totally confident in the commitment of the United States as a global power to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons."
In his meeting with Gantz, Austin assured that "If diplomacy fails we are prepared to turn to other options."
"We will defend ourselves, we will defend our friends and we will defend our interests," he said.
Referencing maritime security exercises conducted with forces from the UAE, Bahrain, Israel and the U.S. last month, Austin praised normalization as "a major strategic opportunity," and added that the U.S. would "continue to buttress this emerging regional security architecture through military to military cooperation, training and joint exercises."
Afterwards, Gantz met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The two discussed the possibility of expanding the Abraham Accords.
On the Palestinian issue, Gantz said Israel is taking steps to build trust with the Palestinians.
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On Iran, the Defense Minister stressed the need to stop Iran's nuclear program and its aggression.
The Israeli defense minister's meetings in Washington come as talks resume in Vienna between Iran and world powers on curbing Iran's nuclear program.
Israeli sources said this week that during the last round of talks in Vienna, Washington was surprised by Iran's strict negotiating position.
Tehran has been breaching restrictions agreed upon in its 2015 deal with world powers since the U.S. withdrew from it in 2018, and is now demanding that the U.S. remove all sanctions immediately and commit to not restoring them as a condition for Iranian cooperation in the nuclear talks.
Reuters contributed to this report.