Gantz, US counterpart Esper discuss Iran, coronavirus and arms deals

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks with his American counterpart Defense Secretary Mark Esper, discussing Iran’s activities in the Middle East and other “regional security concerns,” Gantz’s office says.

This is his first such conversation with Esper since Gantz entered his position last month.

“The two discussed both governments’ efforts to address the novel coronavirus and the need to deter adversaries that may seek to exploit global attention to the pandemic,” Gantz’s office says in a statement.

“They reviewed shared interests on regional security concerns, with an emphasis on the necessity to halt the Iranian threat, as well as opportunities to build a more stable and prosperous Middle East,” the defense minister’s office says.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, on March 4, 2020 (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Gantz’s spokesperson refuses to comment on whether the two discussed Israel’s reported plans to annex portions of the West Bank.

During the call, Gantz and Esper also discussed plans to streamline Israel’s arms purchases from the United States in the coming weeks. “Secretary Esper and Minister Gantz committed to meeting in person at the earliest opportunity,” Gantz’s office says.

— Judah Ari Gross

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