Kerry looks to reassure anxious Israel over US resolve on Syria, Iran

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Israel for one-day visit; Kerry is expected to brief Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the US deal reached with Russia that will see Syria dismantle its chemical weapons cache.

September 15, 2013 13:08
2 minute read.
John Kerry arrives in Israel to brief Netanyahu on Syria on September 15, 2013.

Kerry arrives in israel september 15, 2013 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The Obama administration is eager to allay Israeli concerns and to reassure Jerusalem that the agreement with Russia was not tantamount to "a capitulation" to Moscow and its ally, Bashar Assad.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who arrived in Israel on Sunday to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, will likely tell his Israeli interlocutors that the US will see to it that the agreement with Russia is fully implemented. If not, Washington assures the Israelis that the military option remains on the table.

The secretary of state is also expected to make clear to Netanyahu that Washington remains committed to its policy of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons irrespective of the fate of chemical weapons in Syria.

Israeli officials reacted with alarm over what is perceived as an erosion of American deterrence in the region. These fears were exacerbated by reports that Washington is interested in renewing diplomatic dialogue with Iran.

According to the LA Times, President Barack Obama exchanged direct messages with his newly installed Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, raising the possibility that the two men may meet on the sidelines of the upcoming UN General Assembly.

"Israel will seek clarifications from the administration regarding its willingness to engage the Iranians in dialogue and it will once again emphasize the importance of making a credible military threat against Iran, just as it did in the case with Syria," said a diplomatic source in Jerusalem.

Kerry and Netanyahu met just one day after Washington and Moscow agreed to a deal that would see Syria decommission its chemical weapons stockpiles, Army Radio reported.

Kerry arrived in Israel earlier on Sunday to update the Israeli premier on the latest diplomatic developments regarding the Syrian crisis.

The secretary of state was accompanied by Martin Indyk, his envoy to the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu's office had no comment Saturday night on the new US-Russian agreement on destroying Syria's chemical weapons stores.

Although Kerry's one-day trip to Israel was planned before the announcement of the US-Russian deal – and was originally to focus primarily on the Palestinian diplomatic track - it is now also expected to deal with the Geneva agreement

Kerry met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in London last week. A planned meeting with Netanyahu last week in Rome was cancelled because of the Syrian situation.

Kerry is scheduled to arrive in Israel after holding meetings in Paris on Sunday with the foreign ministers of France, Britain, and Saudi Arabia. Kerry was last in Jerusalem in July, when his intensive shuttle diplomacy led to the restart of Israeli-Palestinian talks.

While Jerusalem officially refrained from commenting on the deal which – if implemented – will strip Syrian President Bashar Assad of his chemical arsenal, but let him remain in power, former deputy minister and one-time Israeli envoy to the US Danny Ayalon termed it an "important diplomatic achievement," but said the success of the deal will only be judged by its implementation.

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