US, Israel Convene Strategic Dialogue in Jerusalem

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli and U.S. officials convened the semi-annual Strategic Dialogue Thursday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem.

"The Strategic Dialogue, the highest-level regularly scheduled diplomatic meetings between the two countries, highlights the strong alliance and deep ties that bind Israel and the United States," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is heading up the Israeli delegation and Undersecretary William Burns is leading the U.S. contingency.

Discussions cover a wide range of issues relevant to both countries. At Thursday's sessions, participants weighed the challenges and potential opportunities from the so-called Arab spring, which brought regime changes in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.

Iran's ongoing pursuit of nuclear weapons, its destabilizing regional influence, and its support and promotion of international terrorism were high on the meeting agenda.

Delegates from both countries also expressed serious concern over Syrian President Bashar Assad's continuing violence against the civilian population, which has spawned a major humanitarian crisis. Thousands of Syrians have fled to Turkey and other surrounding countries.

Many participants say Assad's crackdown could spawn more violence throughout the Middle East.

Syrian opposition activists say as many as 17,000 have been killed in the 16-month uprising, aided by Iran and the Lebanese-based terror group, Hezbollah. 

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