Mullen and Netanyahu.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Adm. Michael Mullen, America’s top military officer, made it a point Monday to
reaffirm the closeness of the US-Israeli strategic relationship, saying the
alliance was “something we both depend on.”
Mullen: Gantz will be good for Israel, region
Mullen to arrive in Israel to bid farewell to Ashkenazi
Mullen, chairman of the US
Joint Chiefs of Staff, said before meeting with President Shimon Peres that the
strength of ties between the two countries was especially relevant at a time of
enormous regional instability and change.
In Israel to take part in the
farewell ceremony for outgoing chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen Gabi Ashkenazi –
something seen as a rare gesture – Mullen also met with Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and Ashkenazi’s successor, Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz.
meeting with Netanyahu, he indicated that their talks had focused on the
situation in Egypt, which he said signified a “wave of change.”
in very challenging times, and will stay focused on this and continue to work
together from a military standpoint to reaffirm that relationship in these very
difficult times,” he said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile,
said at a press conference in the Knesset Monday that even with all the regional
instability, what worried him most – both as foreign minister and as a private
citizen – was the “Iranization of the region.”
Lieberman said that
following the breakdown of talks between the big powers and Iran in Istanbul in
January, the Iranian issue had largely been pushed off the international agenda,
even though Tehran continued to pursue its nuclear ambitions. He added that he
had given a directive to the ministry to “do everything to bring Iran back to
the center of the international discussion.”
Lieberman said he would make
Iran the focus of talks scheduled Tuesday with EU foreign policy chief Catherine
Ashton in Jerusalem.
“Wherever there is instability, they penetrate,” he
said of the Iranians. “When I look at the situation in Algeria, Tunisia and in
the whole region, what bothers [me] is Iran.”
He refrained from
specifically addressing the situation in Egypt.
Ashton will be coming to
Israel from Tunisia on Tuesday as part of a regional tour that will also take
her to the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Lebanon. Her visit comes in advance
of another Quartet meeting, scheduled in March. In addition to Lieberman,
she will also be meeting with Netanyahu.