Pompeo says US-Israel relations 'never been stronger,' in Middle East visit

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday offered strong support for long-time U.S. ally Israel during his first official international trip as the country’s top diplomat, saying the two countries’ relationship “has never been stronger.”

Pompeo spoke in Tel Aviv after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss critical issues like the threat of Iran.  

“We remain deeply concerned about Iran's dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region and Iran's ambition to dominate the Middle East remains," Pompeo said while standing next to Netanyahu. "The United States is with Israel in this fight."

Pompeo also said the U.S. will withdraw from the international nuclear agreement with Iran if it is not renegotiated. Netanyahu has long urged the international community to revise the deal or scrap it.

Pompeo said President Trump has made clear that the deal is “deeply flawed” and that he’s going to withdraw if he cannot fix it.

Trump has set a May 12 deadline to decide whether to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal -- something he appears likely to do despite heavy pressure to stay from European and other parties.

Pompeo also said Sunday that the United States still intends to open its new embassy on May 14 in Jerusalem, marking a significant shift in decades of American policy toward Israel and the Palestinians, who also claim the holy city as their capital.

Trump has tried during his adminstartion -- even during the presidential campaign -- to strenghten U.S. relations with Israel, after what was considered a strained relation under former President Barack Obama. 

And he called upon Israel and the Palestinians to continue to work together to try to achieve lasting peace.

Pompeo was in Israel as part of a multi-nation trip that also included stops in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Netanyahu did not speak in front of reporters while with Pompeo, but his office issued a statement saying he congratulated Pompeo on his new post, after serving as CIA director, and welcomed his visit. 

“We are very proud of the fact that this is your first visit as secretary of state," Netanyahu said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.