Israel, US to Resume Strategic Dialogue After Hiatus

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel and the U.S. reportedly resumed strategic dialogue talks on Monday.

Although Israel and the U.S. enjoy close diplomatic ties and are in regular contact on a full range of issues, the ongoing bilateral dialogue was put on hold three years ago because of friction stemming from Israel's sale of weapons to China.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev declined to comment on reports that the talks had been suspended for several years but said that they had not taken place in a while for "logistical" reasons.

The rift between the U.S. and Israel centered on Israel's intent to upgrade Harpy anti-radar aerial drones, which the Chinese originally purchased from Israel in 1994. Word of the deal came to light late last year.

Israel finally backed down, and Israel and the U.S. signed a joint memorandum in August intended to guide future Israeli arms sales to third parties.

Washington was concerned that the upgraded drones might compromise the security of its forces in the Pacific and of Taiwan. Israel has a commitment not to sell certain weapons to third parties without Washington's consent.

Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which was completed in September, also prompted U.S. officials to seek a resumption of the strategic talks, reports said.

Teams for the strategic dialogue on both sides include members of several agencies such as the Defense and State (Foreign Affairs) departments, Regev said.

The dialogue allows the two countries to discuss issues of mutual concern, instead of dealing with relevant issues only when the Israeli prime minister and U.S. president get together, he added.

Press reports said the talks scheduled to take place this week will touch on Iran's nuclear program and tensions on Israel's border with Lebanon.

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