Syria and Iran were on the agenda Tuesday when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met in Brasilia against the backdrop of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s inauguration.
Netanyahu said he was happy to meet Pompeo for the second time in a month, saying they had “a lot to discuss” about their “common aims.”
“We’re going to discuss the intense cooperation between Israel and the United States, which will also deal with the questions following the decision, the American decisions on Syria, on how to intensify even further our intelligence and operations cooperation in Syria and elsewhere to block Iranian aggression in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister appeared to imply that the U.S. had offered Israel support after a recent large-scale attack in Syria. He said that he was “very appreciative of the support, strong support and unequivocal support that you and the president gave our efforts at self-defense against Syria and Hezbollah just in the last few days.”
The attack, which apparently targeted weapons depots belonging to Iran and its proxy Hezbollah, drew criticism from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who warned that it endangered civilian aircraft in Syrian airspace. Israeli-Russian ties are still recovering from an incident in September in which a Russian transport plane was downed by Syrian missile defenses during an airstrike attributed to Israel. Moscow blames Jerusalem for the incident.
Pompeo said before the meeting with Netanyahu that the U.S. was still committed to the same principles in the Middle East as it was before Trump decided to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria.
“Our effort to counter Iranian aggression continues, and our commitment to… the protection of Israel continues in the same way as before that decision was made,” Pompeo said.
This meeting comes after U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to slow down the U.S. exit from Syria, a decision that drew extensive criticism across the political spectrum, to span over four months.
Pompeo also referred to the IDF Operation Northern Shield, launched by Israel last month to seek and destroy Hezbollah attack tunnels dug under the Lebanon-Israel border, and said that the US could appreciate the threat the structures posed to Israeli sovereignty. Israel, he said, did a good job of exposing and neutralizing the tunnels.
Netanyahu met with Bolsonaro on Friday, and said that the Brazilian President accepted his invitation to visit Israel, a trip that is likely to take place in March.
"Bolsonaro told me it was "when, not if" he moves the embassy to Jerusalem," Netanyahu said on Sunday during a meeting with leaders of Brazil's Jewish community in Rio de Janeiro.
"We attach enormous importance to Brazil, and Brazil in the context of Latin America," he added. "This heralds a historic change."
After he met the Israeli leader, Bolsonaro said that "we need good allies, good friends, good brothers, like Benjamin Netanyahu."