US SECRETARY of State Mike Pompeo speaks to students at the American University in Cairo.
(photo credit: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/REUTERS)
An upcoming visit to Israel by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is not meant to send any message to the Israeli electorate before the upcoming elections, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said on Tuesday.
Pompeo announced during a speech at an Iowa high school on Monday that he would be traveling to Lebanon, Israel and Kuwait next week.
Asked at a press briefing if there was any message intended before the election, Palladino replied, “No message. Israel is an ally. We’re not going to get involved in the domestic politics of another country.”
He did not give precise dates for Pompeo’s trip. The visit, however, is expected to take place before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travels to Washington the week of March 24
to address the annual AIPAC Policy Conference and for a meeting with US President Donald Trump.
Pompeo is expected to take part in a trilateral Israel-Greece-Cyprus summit in Jerusalem on March 20. Netayahu said the purpose of that meeting will be to advance the natural gas pipeline through Cyprus, Greece and then further into Europe.
That summit will be part of a flurry of diplomatic activity taking place immediately before the elections that -- in addition to Netanyahu's trip to Washington -- will also include a visit to Israel on Match 31 by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Netanyahu has made Israel’s improved diplomatic standing in the world, especially his close ties with the Trump administration, a major element of his election campaign.
Netanyahu last met with Pompeo in Warsaw in mid-February
, and the US secretary of state was last in Israel in April 2018.
Palladino said Pompeo’s trip to Kuwait was a continuation of a visit he took to the Persian Gulf states in January that was cut short because of family reasons.
This will be Pompeo’s first visit to Lebanon, and – among other issues – he is expected raise US concerns about Hezbollah’s influence in the government. David Satterfield, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, arrived in Beirut on Tuesday to prepare for the visit.
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