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Bolton tells Netanyahu preventing Iranian nuclear capability a top US priority

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with John Bolton, US national security adviser, in Jerusalem on August 20, 2018
Sebastian Scheiner (POOL/AFP)

The Trump administration’s National Security adviser John Bolton reassured Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that reigning in Iran’s nuclear power was a top priority for the United States at a joint press conference on Monday and emphasized the increasingly robust US-Israel alliance.

“It’s a question of the highest importance for the United States that Iran never get a deliverable nuclear weapons capability,” Bolton said at the press conference in Jerusalem on the second day of his 48-hour long Israel trip.

“It’s why President Donald Trump withdrew from the wretched Iran nuclear deal, it’s why he is re-imposing economic sanctions, it is why we’ve worked with our friends in Europe to convince them of the need to take stronger steps against the Iranian nuclear weapons nuclear,” Bolton expanded.

In May, the United States pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord negotiated between Tehran and world powers. On August 6 the first of two waves of restrictive American sanctions were re-imposed on Iranian industries.The effects already visible with Iran's rial currency losing around half its value since Trump’s announcement, contributing to the already spiraling economic situation.

The comments were also veiled reference to European countries, which are seeking to save the nuclear deal and have vowed to keep providing Iran with the economic benefits it received from the accord.

Applauding Trump’s decision to leave the “disastrous” Iran deal, Netanyahu speaking at the Jerusalem conference dubbed the move “nothing less than a hinge of history.”

“I know that view is shared by all our Arab neighbors, practically everyone in this region,” the prime minister added. Iranian rivals Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have openly welcomed the reinforcing of sanctions, viewing the Islamic Republic’s involvement in regional conflicts a major threat to stability in the Middle East.

Sharing such concerns Bolton also referenced US anxieties over Iran’s role as “the central banker of international terrorism” as well as its “belligerent military activity” in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen which he highlighted as “global threats.”

In his first visit to Israel since being appointed national security adviser Bolton has sought to highlight the flourishing US-Israel alliance, which he said “has never been stronger.”

Ariel Hermoni, Ministry of defense

“Israel has no greater friend than the US,” Netanyahu declared, underlining shared values of “freedom and liberty."

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also thanked Bolton for his support of Israel during a meeting between the two officials in Jerusalem on Monday. 

"We have a  very supportive President in the White House and a very supportive Administration and this gives us significant maneuvering room vis a vis our enemies to the north and south. Thank you John for your great contribution to Israel's national security," Liberman told Bolton. 

During his first engagement of the trip upon his arrival Bolton met with US ambassador to Israel David Friedman and his counterpart Ron Dermer as well as Netanyahu where he shared concerns regarding Syria, Iran and the Gaza Strip.

Kremlin

Bolton is known for his strong backing Israel and his hostility to the Jewish state's key foe Iran, and once said the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dead.

Earlier in the day on Sunday, Bolton told ABC News that US policy in Syria was aimed at “the final destruction of ISIS territorial caliphate, dealing with the ISIS territorial threat and - and getting Iran back into - getting its forces back into its own territory.”

Israel and the US have long argued that Iranian forces have to leave Syria, with Israel lobbying Moscow intensely over the past couple of months.

On Thursday, ahead of Bolton’s visit, the US and Russia agreed that Iranian forces must leave Syria, however according to a Haaretz report citing a senior American official, Moscow stated that it would be a "difficult task."

A three-country tour will also take Bolton to Ukraine and Switzerland, where he will follow up with Russian officials on Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, the White House has said.

The meeting in Geneva is a follow-up to Trump's highly controversial July summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, according to the White House.

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