Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak held talks at the Pentagon March 5 on issues including Syria and Iran, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.
It was Hagel’s first meeting with a foreign counterpart since he took office as Secretary of Defense.
During today’s meeting with Barak, Hagel expressed his strong commitment to Israel’s security, including maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge and continued U.S. support for missile and rocket defense systems in spite of fiscal constraints, Little said.
Hagel and Barak agreed that the United States-Israeli defense relationship has never been stronger, Little said, and that both nations will continue their close cooperation.
The two leaders also discussed the range of shared security interests including the need for the Syrian regime to maintain control over chemical and biological weapons in their country, Little said, noting the leaders pledged to continue U.S.-Israel contingency planning to counter that potential threat.
Regarding Iran, Hagel told Barak that President Barack Obama is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, with all options on the table, Little said.
Little said Hagel also stated that the United States continues to believe there is still time to address this issue through diplomacy, but that the window is closing.
Hagel noted that he and the Israeli defense minister have had an outstanding working relationship, dating back to Barak’s days as Israel’s Prime Minister, Little said.
Hagel also thanked Barak for his kind words at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference, Little said.
And, Hagel expressed his desire to visit Israel soon and Barak stated that Israel looks forward to hosting him in the near future, Little said.