US confirms Pompeo and Netanyahu to meet in Brazil
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US confirms Pompeo and Netanyahu to meet in Brazil

Israeli PM to hold talks with top diplomat weeks after Trump decision to pull out of Syria, putting Jerusalem at odds with Washington

In this file photo taken on December 13, 2018 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the press at the State Department in Washington, DC. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)
In this file photo taken on December 13, 2018 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the press at the State Department in Washington, DC. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet next week in Brazil with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Washington prepares to withdraw troops from Syria, the State Department said Thursday.

Pompeo and Netanyahu will meet in Brasilia where both will be attending the New Year’s Day inauguration of president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing firebrand who has vowed to move Brazil closer to Israel and US President Donald Trump.

The State Department and Netanyahu’s office have not offered details about the planned meeting.

Netanyahu has met frequently with Pompeo and enjoys a warm relationship with Trump, happy about his withdrawal from a denuclearization deal with Iran and his landmark shift of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) meets US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the UN in New York on September 26, 2018 (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

But Netanyahu has for the first time found himself at odds with Trump after the US leader’s sudden announcement last week that he will bring home all 2,000 American troops from war-ravaged Syria, where Israel saw Washington’s presence as a bulwark against Iran and counterweight to the influence of Russia.

Israel has been measured in its public response, saying it respects Trump’s decision, which led to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria that it says are targeting Iranian forces and their Hezbollah allies.

Trump has said that US troops were solely focused on fighting the Islamic State jihadist group, which he has declared to be “largely defeated.”

Pompeo will also meet in Brazil with Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra and afterward fly to Cartagena to hold talks with Colombian President Ivan Duque.

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