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Trump's national security adviser John Bolton in Jerusalem to 'reassure' Israel on Syria withdrawal

Bolton will meet with the PM on Sunday evening [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 January, 2019

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Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he would discuss Iranian ambitions in neighbouring Syria when he meets with US national security advisor John Bolton in Jerusalem on Sunday evening.
Iranian ambitions in Syria will be among the topics discussed during a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US national security advisor John Bolton in Jerusalem.

Bolton arrived in Israel on Saturday night for talks on the future of Syria in the wake of President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw all US forces there.

The announcement has concerned Israel and other US allies in the region, and Trump has since spoken of "slowly" sending troops home "over a period of time".

"I will discuss with him efforts to stop Iranian aggression in our region, the situation in Syria, following President Trump's decision, and the continuation of the conversation I held with President Putin on Friday," Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting.

The phone call with Putin was the first between the leaders since Trump's surprise statement that he was pulling all 2,000 troops from Syria, declaring that the United States had achieved its objective as the Islamic State group had been "knocked" out.

Netanyahu's office said he and Putin "discussed the situation in Syria and recent developments and agreed on continued coordination between the (Israeli and Russian) militaries".

"Our position is clear," Netanyahu said on Sunday. "We continue at this time to act against the Iranian military buildup in Syria, and we are acting against anyone who undermines or tries to undermine Israel's security."

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in neighbouring Syria against what it says are Iranian military targets and deliveries of advanced weapons to Hizballah, which is backed by Tehran.

Israeli public radio said that Sunday evening's meeting would also include Washington's concerns over Chinese commercial and technological activity in the Jewish state.

Netanyahu has been delighted by Trump's hard line on Israel's main enemy Iran and the landmark move of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but the pullout from Syria has caused concern.

At a meeting on Tuesday in Brazil, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Israeli premier that the Syria pullout would not affect US support and protection of Israel.

"The counter-ISIS campaign continues, our efforts to counter Iranian aggression continue, and our commitment to Middle East stability and protection of Israel continues in the same way before that decision was made," he said using an acronym for the Islamic State group. 

Trump's abrupt decision on Syria stunned regional players, US politicians of both parties and military leaders, who expressed surprise that such a major decision would be announced after apparently so little advance consultation, against the advice of his national security advisers and on Twitter.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis resigned following the announcement, which came on the same day that US officials said Trump was also planning a significant drawdown in Afghanistan, with some reports suggesting as many as half of the 14,000 troops could leave.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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