Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem Sunday. The two are expected to discuss the Iran nuclear deal and the Islamic Republic's presence in Syria.
Netanyhu spoke ahead of the government cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday, saying "Today we will welcome U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a true friend of Israel. I think that it is important that he is coming to Israel as part of his first visit outside the U.S. as Secretary of State."
The premier added that relations between Israel and the U.S. "are stronger than ever and I would like to take this opportunity to again to thank President Trump for the decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem, which will take place in a few days. At the time, I said there would be other countries to join this move and I can tell you these things are indeed happening."
Pompeo, a former CIA director, is thought to be a key supporter of the Netanyahu government's politics, and he holds hawkish views on Iran. His appointment was seen as a step toward a tougher American policy regarding Tehran, with U.S. President Donald Trump recently vowing to cancel the Iran nuclear deal if significant changes are not made.
The meeting is set to occur less than two weeks before the May 12 deadline for Trump to decide whether to re-impose sanctions against Iran that were removed as part of the deal on its nuclear program.
Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia Saturday, where he is slated to meet with the Saudi king, crown prince and foreign minister just weeks ahead of several key dates that could further roil the volatile region.
After leaving Saudi Arabia on Sunday, Pompeo will fly to Israel and Jordan before ending his first trip abroad as America's top diplomat.
Officials travelling with Pompeo say he will use the trip to call on European and other nations to impose further sanctions against Iran. They said he'd also stress the U.S. commitment to the defense of Saudi Arabia, Israel and other friends and partners in the region.
They added that the secretary would also raise Trump's concern about the festering dispute between Qatar on one side and its Gulf Cooperation Council partners Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on the other. The dispute, the officials said, is hampering unified efforts to confront Iran's increasing assertiveness and giving Iran room to expand its influence.
Pompeo will also press the Saudis on contributing more to stabilization efforts in territory in Syria recently liberated from the Islamic State group.
On Friday at a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, the first stop on his trip, Pompeo repeated Trump's pledge to withdraw from the Iran deal unless it is significantly strengthened. He said the U.S. was "unlikely" to stay in if that was not done.
"Absent a substantial fix, absent overcoming the shortcomings, the flaws of the deal, he is unlikely to stay in that deal past this May," Pompeo said.
AP contributed to this report.
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