U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 13 accused Iran of using its resources to "foment terror" even as its people suffer through one of the Middle East's deadliest coronavirus outbreaks.
The top U.S. diplomat arrived in Jerusalem earlier on May 13 for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of Israel’s new government on Iran’s activities in the Middle East, the conflict in Syria, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other issues.
Before heading into closed-door talks with the Israeli leader, Pompeo, on his first trip abroad in nearly two months amid the COVID-19 pandemic, did not address Israeli plans to annex Jewish settlements and other territory in the occupied West Bank, but he did offer a fresh condemnation of Iran.
"Even during this pandemic, the Iranians are using the ayatollah regime's resources to foment terror across the world, even when the people of Iran are struggling so mightily," Pompeo said ahead of talks with Netanyahu.
"It tells you a lot about the soul of those people who lead that country," he added.
Pompeo also held talks with Netanyahu’s new coalition partner, Benny Gantz. The discussions focused on ways to strengthen U.S.-Israeli coordination in the fight against the coronavirus and “our continued line of efforts to counter Iran's dangerous activity in the region and around the world," the secretary of state tweeted.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have heightened since U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, especially after he pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed crippling sanctions on the Islamic republic.
Pompeo wore a red, white, and blue face mask as he descended from his plane in Tel Aviv.
However, both he and Netanyahu were without masks when they met at the prime minister's office.
Netanyahu said that Pompeo's one-day visit was "a testament to the strength of our alliance."
He also praised Washington's continuing pressure on Iran, a country he claimed was persisting with its "aggressive designs and its aggressive actions against Americans, Israelis, and everyone else in the region."