JERUSALEM 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday began talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the so-called “deal of the century.”

Speaking to reports ahead of the talks, Pompeo said he was looking forward to making a progress regarding the so-called peace plan.

He noted that talks will also tackle Iran and Israeli efforts to stem the spread of coronavirus as well.

Pompeo is scheduled to meet later with the leader of Blue and White party, Benny Gantz, who agreed with Netanyahu to form a unity government.

The US secretary of state arrived in Israel on Wednesday morning for a visit lasting for a few hours.

Notably, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was absent from Pompeo’s reception due to health problems, according to the Israeli Broadcast Authority.

US President Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” plan was announced Jan. 28. It refers to Jerusalem as “Israel’s undivided capital” and recognizes Israeli sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank.

The plan includes the establishment of a heavily fragmented Palestinian state connected by bridges and tunnels.

Palestinian officials say that under the US plan, Israel will annex 30-40% of the West Bank, including all of East Jerusalem.

The plan has drawn widespread criticism from the Arab world and was rejected by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which urged “all member states not to engage with this plan or to cooperate with the US administration in implementing it in any form.”

*Writing by Mahmoud Barakat

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