US and Israeli defence heads meet in Washington

Benny Gantz voiced goal of strengthening military readiness to stop Iran’s regional aggression and nuclear aspirations

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin welcomes Israeli Minister of Defence Benny Gantz during an enhanced honour cordon ceremony at the Pentagon. Getty Images / AFP

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin has met Israeli Defence Minister Benjamin “Benny” Gantz to reaffirm the US commitment to Israel’s security and qualitative military edge.

The meeting comes as nuclear talks with Iran got off to a rough start in Vienna — with negotiators openly voicing frustration and pessimism over Tehran's commitment to returning to compliance with the deal.

During the meeting, Mr Austin said: “We are completely aligned in our commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This is a national security interest of the United States and Israel and the world".

He added President Joe Biden has made it clear that if current diplomacy fails, the US is “prepared to turn to other options".

Mr Gantz also expressed his deep concern and stated the goal of strengthening military readiness to stop Tehran's regional aggression and nuclear aspirations. Mr Austin reconfirmed US resolve to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

The Israeli official described Iran as “the biggest threat to global and regional peace and stability”.

Iran denies trying to develop a nuclear weapon, saying its programme has peaceful aims.

But sweeping demands by Iran's new hard-line government during the talks have heightened suspicions in the West that Tehran is playing for time while advancing its nuclear programme.

In addition to Iran's nuclear aspirations, Mr Austin and Mr Gantz discussed shared concerns regarding the country's support for terrorism as well as its missile programme, the Department of Defence said.

“The international community, with US leadership, has an opportunity to act against Iran’s hegemonic aspirations, restore stability and prevent the oppression of nations across the region,” Mr Austin said.

Both leaders also stressed the advantages of the Abraham Accords and agreed to keep the lines of communication open regarding defence co-operation between the two countries to support regional security objectives.

Mr Austin emphasised Mr Biden’s desire for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well as the need for both sides to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tension, including increasing settlement activity.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Israeli Minister of Defence Benny Gantz met with US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon in Washington on Thursday and was greeted with a bespoke cookie. AFP
Updated: December 10th 2021, 5:45 PM