October 13, 2015 / 6:44 PM / 4 years ago

Top U.S. general to visit Israel as defence aid talks expected to resume

Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford testifies during the Senate Armed Services committee nomination hearing to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 9, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The top U.S. military officer will visit Israel next week, Israel’s military said on Tuesday, as the two nations prepare to resume talks on defence aid that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had suspended in protest at the Iran nuclear deal.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said Marine General Joseph Dunford, who took over as chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff this month, would arrive on Sunday. She did not elaborate, and U.S. officials had no immediate comment.

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said Dunford and his hosts would discuss Russia’s military intervention in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad, as well as future U.S. defence aid for Israel.

The U.S. and Israeli governments had been looking to agree on a 10-year aid package to extend the current deal worth $3 billion annually, which is due to expire in 2017.

But Netanyahu froze the negotiations ahead of the July nuclear deal reached between Iran and a group of world powers, which he opposed.

Deputy U.S. National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said last week that the talks could resume when Netanyahu visits President Barack Obama at the White House on Nov 9. The Israeli leader echoed that prediction on Monday.

“In my imminent visit to Washington I will discuss Israel’s defence needs for the coming years, for the coming decade, with the president,” Netanyahu said in parliament.

Before the suspension, the two sides were close to a new package of grants worth $3.6 billion to $3.7 billion a year, U.S. and Israeli officials have said.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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