US official: Trump to discuss Iran, Mideast peace in Netanyahu meeting at UN
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US official: Trump to discuss Iran, Mideast peace in Netanyahu meeting at UN

President will meet Netanyahu; H.R. McMaster says 'prospects for a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians' to be the subject in many meetings

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

US President Donald Trump at residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 22, 2017 (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
US President Donald Trump at residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 22, 2017 (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump will discuss the Iranian challenge and efforts to forge a Middle East peace agreement next week at the UN General Assembly, a senior administration official said on Friday, with the major focus of his one-one-one meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being Iran.

“Of course, the president will talk about the prospects for a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, among a broad range of regional issues, with all of the leaders he’s meeting during the week,” National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters during a press briefing.

McMaster’s remarks come as the Israeli premier is on his way to New York for the world body’s annual confab. He will address the plenary session on Tuesday — as will Trump.

The two are slated to meet on the sidelines of the General Assembly next Monday. It will be their first in-person get together since Trump visited the region in May.

The major focus of that meeting with be the Iranian challenge, McMaster said, and the regime’s ongoing destabilizing activities in the region.

“While their conversations will be wide-ranging, we expect that Iran’s destabilizing behavior, including its violation of the sovereignty of nations across the Middle East, to be a major focus,” he said.

It is not yet clear where the meeting will take place, but a senior White House official told The Times of Israel it will happen somewhere in Manhattan.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Their summit will come as Trump continues to make headlines for his plans to toughen up on Iran and potential plans to decertify the regime as violating the 2015 nuclear deal, despite International Atomic Energy Agency investigators finding it is abiding by its terms.

On Thursday, Trump waived wide-ranging economic sanctions against Iran’s oil, trade and financial sectors. Yet, the US Treasury Department also imposed fresh sanctions on 11 Iranian entities for their alleged support of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Tehran’s ballistic missile program and other programs to conduct cyberattacks and support terrorism.

The latest Trump-Netanyahu meeting comes at a sensitive time for the American peace push. Last month, the former real estate mogul dispatched a US delegation to the Middle East to try to renew negotiations between the sides.

No tangible developments occurred, but Palestinians continue to criticize the US team for its refusal to back a two-state solution, a goal that has been central to American foreign policy for decades.

In August, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert responded to these criticisms by saying the Trump administration did not want to “bias” itself by supporting any particular outcome to the conflict.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will also be in town for the UN gathering. He will meet with Trump on Wednesday, a US official told The Times of Israel.

That meeting will come shortly after the Trump administration voiced its full support — for the first time — for the Taylor Force Act, legislation that would cut US aid to the Palestinian Authority until it ends what critics describe as its long-standing practice of rewarding Palestinians who commit acts of terror against Israelis.

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