Blinken to meet Israel's Yair Lapid in Rome

First meeting between US secretary of state and Israeli foreign minister will take place on Sunday

Israeli alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrives to attend the first weekly cabinet meeting of the new government in Jerusalem June 20, 2021. Emmanuel Dunand/Pool via REUTERS

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet Israel’s new Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Italy at the weekend, a senior State Department official and Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

The meeting will take place on Sunday in Rome, officials said, but neither side has provided any details about the agenda, which is likely to focus on Israel's concerns about a possible US return to the Iran nuclear deal and Israeli security more broadly.

It will be their first meeting since Mr Lapid assumed his position, which occurred after long-time Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu left office.

The discussion comes as Israel’s new government, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, seeks to mend relations with US President Joe Biden’s administration.

The leaders have inherited a relationship at once imperilled by increasingly partisan domestic political considerations and deeply bound in history – with both sides recognising that they need each other.

Mr Bennett’s government says it wants to repair relations with Democrats and restore bipartisan support in the US for Israel that former president Donald Trump attempted to turn into a Republican monopoly.

Mr Biden, meanwhile, is trying to pursue a more balanced approach to the Palestinian conflict and to Iran by restoring ties with the Palestinians and entering into indirect negotiations with Tehran on the nuclear agreement, from which Mr Trump withdrew in 2018.

The relationship is critical to both countries. Israel has long regarded the US as its closest ally and guarantor of its security and international standing while the US counts on Israel’s military and intelligence prowess in a turbulent Middle East.

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