Hours after the announcement that U.S. President Barack Obama would not meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in New York later this month, the White House said that the two leaders spoke by phone late Tuesday night.
According to the White House’s statement, the two said during the conversation that they are “united” in efforts to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
“Contrary to reports in the press, there was never a request for Prime Minister Netanyahu to meet with President Obama in Washington, nor was a request for a meeting ever denied,” said the statement quoted by AFP.
The two leaders, who spoke for an hour, "discussed the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program, and our close cooperation on Iran and other security issues," it said.
“President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu reaffirmed that they are united in their determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and agreed to continue their close consultations going forward.”
Earlier on Tuesday, the White House tried to play down the reports that Obama refused to meet Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor explained that Netanyahu and Obama are “simply not in the city at the same time.”
Obama and Netanyahu “are in frequent contact” and Netanyahu will meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior officials during the visit, Vietor said.
Tensions between the sides have been high lately over perceptions of Iran’s nuclear program and how it should be dealt with.
On Monday the two sides sparred over remarks made by Clinton about setting “red lines” for Iran regarding its nuclear program.
Israel was not thrilled with Clinton’s remarks that the Obama administration has no “deadline” for Iran.
Clinton said in an interview that negotiations still are “by far the best approach” to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, hours after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in an interview with Canadian television Sunday night that Iran “doesn’t see a clear red line from the international community.”
In response, a senior official in Jerusalem said, “Without a clear and firm red line, Iran will not stop its nuclear arms race. Such statements do not stop the Iranian centrifuges, but vice versa. Such statements not only do not deter Iran, they calm it down.”
The State Department later once again distanced Washington from the Israeli stance, with spokeswoman Victoria Nuland telling reporters, “The American people know that the president has said unequivocally he will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.