Hagel to visit Israel during Mideast tour next week

US secretary of defense to discuss regional security challenges during stops in Saudia Arabia, Jordan and Israel.

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was slated to visit Israel during a tour of the Middle East in the coming week, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby announced Friday.
Hagel was set to arrive the region on Monday for consultations with his counterparts there to address "common security challenges."
The trip will be Hagel's "third to the Middle East in just over a year, and it will advance America's regional strategy in that region," Kirby said during a press briefing.
Hagel was scheduled to first arrive in Saudi Arabia to enhance Washington's cooperation with Gulf nations and to discuss regional security issues relating to Iran, Syria, Egypt and Iraq.
The trip will also stand as "an opportunity for [Hagel] to underscore US security commitments in the Middle East and to reinforce the United States' unstinting policy of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and further destabilizing the region," Kirby stated.
The Pentagon chief was next due in Jordan to discuss bilateral cooperation on the Syrian civil war and America's "commitment" to Jordanian defense.
During his final stop of the tour in Israel, Hagel was set to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.
Hagel and Ya'alon were expected "to discuss critical regional and bilateral security issues indulging the United States and Israel's cooperation on rocket and missile defense," Kirby said.
Hagel last visited Israel in April 2013.
"[Hagel] as you know is deeply committed to the US-Israel defense relationship, which is as strong as it's ever been," Kirby stressed.