US National Security Adviser John Bolton was set to arrive in Israel on Sunday for two days of talks expected to heavily focus on Iran and its military presence in Syria.
Bolton will be hosted for dinner Sunday evening by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his official residence, Netanyahu’s office said Saturday, and will meet with the premier again on Monday morning for further discussions.
The White House has been mum on the agenda of Bolton’s trip, his first to Israel since he replaced H.R. McMaster as US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser in April.
Following his trip to Israel, Bolton will travel to Ukraine and Geneva, where he will follow up with Russian officials on Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said last week.
During their meeting in Helsinki, both Trump and Putin expressed their commitment to Israel’s security, with the latter saying the two agreed on securing Israel’s northern border with Syria in accordance with the 1974 disengagement agreement following the Yom Kippur War.
A White House official last week told Reuters that Trump and Putin agreed “in principle” that Iran should not remain in Syria, but Putin believed any attempt to push Iran out would be difficult.
As pro-regime Syrian troops have returned to the border in recent months as part of a Russian-backed offensive, Israel has called for the upholding of the disengagement accord and maintaining the buffer zone on the Golan frontier, amid concerns Iranian-aligned forces could establish themselves in the area.
Israel has called for the removal of Iran-backed forces from all of Syria and has struck Iranian targets in the country to prevent them from setting up a military beachhead that could threaten the Jewish state.
Earlier this month, Russia’s top Syria negotiator said his country had convinced the Iranian forces in Syria to withdraw to at least 85 kilometers (53 miles) from the Israeli border, despite Israel’s opposition to Iran’s military presence anywhere in the country.
Also likely to feature in Bolton’s discussions with Netanyahu is the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord and the re-imposition of sanctions on Tehran, the first batch of which took effect earlier this month.
While Trump’s decision was bemoaned by most world leaders, it was applauded by Netanyahu, who from the deal’s outset argued it did not do enough to curb Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.
Bolton, an Iran hawk, was seen as a central player in the US decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal in May.
A former ambassador to the United Nations, Bolton in the past he has advocated for Israel carrying out military strikes against Iran. In March, former defense minister Shaul Mofaz said Bolton tried to convince him to carry out a pre-emptive strike on Iran in the mid 2000s.
Botlon visited Israel as undersecretary of state under president George W. Bush in 2004, holding meetings about sanctions against Iran.
Agencies contributed to this report.