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Thursday, May 14, 2020, 10:51
Pompeo concludes visit in Israel after talks over West Bank annexation
By Xinhua
Thursday, May 14, 2020, 10:51 By Xinhua

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, meets Israeli Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz in Jerusalem, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (PHOTO/ AP)

JERUSALEM US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded his visit to Israel on Wednesday afternoon after meeting Israeli leaders over the country's plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

During his six-hour visit, Pompeo held separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist party of Blue and White and Netanyahu's partner in the soon-to-be unity government.

He also met Gabi Ashkenazi, a lawmaker with Blue and White who is expected to serve as the new government's foreign minister, and Yossi Cohen, chief of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency.

In this Nov 13, 2019 photo, a portion of the Israeli-Jordanian border is viewed through a barbed wire fence from Baqoura, in the Jordan Valley. (PHOTO / AP)

The talk with Netanyahu focused on the prime minister's plan to annex the Jordan Valley that took a major part of his re-election campaign in March, the COVID-19 outbreak, and Iran

ALSO READ: Abbas warns Israel against implementing annexation plan in West Bank

The talk with Netanyahu focused on the prime minister's plan to annex the Jordan Valley that took a major part of his re-election campaign in March, the COVID-19 outbreak, and Iran.

In joint remarks at the start of their meeting, Pompeo accused Iran of attempting to "foment terror" during the coronavirus pandemic.

"The campaign that we have been part of to reduce resources has borne fruit," he said, referring to the nuclear-related sanctions Washington has imposed on Iran.

Netanyahu expressed his "appreciation" for the US government's "strong position" against Iran.

"Iran has not stopped for a minute its aggressive designs and its aggressive actions against Americans, Israelis and everyone else in the region," he said.

He also praised the "unbreakable bond" between Israel and the United States.

The unity government, expected to be inaugurated on Thursday, "is an opportunity to promote peace and security based on the understandings that I reached with President (Donald) Trump" in January, Netanyahu said.

Pompeo landed in the morning at the Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv and headed directly to Jerusalem, with an exemption from the Israeli two-week quarantine requirement.

This was the first international official arriving in Israel since January when the Israeli government started to impose anti-coronavirus restrictions.

The visit comes just a day before the swearing-in ceremony of a new power-sharing Israeli government led by Netanyahu and Gantz.

READ MORE: Netanyahu 'confident' US will allow West Bank annexation

Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to annex the Jordan Valley, which was captured by Israel together with the rest of the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East war. Under the unity deal signed by Netanyahu and Gantz in April, he could make the move from July.

The annexation is actually part of Trump's peace plan for Middle East, better known as the Deal of Century, but it was not immediately clear if Washington will back the timing of the move.

The plan is strongly objected by the Palestinians and the Arab world as well as international organizations such as the United Nations, which denounced the plan as a violation of international law.

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