Moshe Ya'alon and Chuck Hagel (file)
Moshe Ya'alon and Chuck Hagel (file) Flash 90

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon met US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Saturday during an international security conference. The two discussed cooperation between Israel and the US, as well as recent developments in the Middle East.

While Ya'alon caused waves last month when he called US Secretary of State John Kerry "obsessive" and "messianic" in trying to force a peace deal on Israel with the Palestinian Authority (PA), his tone was much more conciliatory Saturday.

"The United States is the greatest friend of Israel, and our appreciation of the US is deep," Ya'alon told Hagel. "We have shared values, interests and a deep connection that overcomes differences of opinion, when there are such differences."

The comments come after Ya'alon said in mid-January that "the only thing that can 'save' us is that John Kerry will get a Nobel peace prize and leave us alone."

The same day that Ya'alon was praising Israel-US ties, Kerry was threatening Israel with international boycotts should peace talks fail.

Commenting on Ya'alon's previous accusations, Kerry remarked "I'm a little surprised by the articles quoting statements on obsession or a fanatical effort to try and achieve peace. We're just working hard, and I still am full of hope that our efforts will succeed and bring a peace agreement."

In terms of regional issues, Ya'alon said "the main conflict in the Middle East is between the Shi'ites and Sunnis, that includes Iran, (Syrian President Bashar) Assad's regime, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad that are working in the Gaza Strip under the Shi'ite axis's support, and between the moderate Sunni countries turning to the West with whom we have shared interests."

Ya'alon noted the Muslim sectarian tensions that are fueling the war in Syria have led to an ongoing genocide with no end in sight, as neither side is managing to get the upper hand. Ya'alon predicted continued bloodshed in Syria for the foreseeable future, arguing a political solution is not currently realistic.

The Shi'ite-Sunni divide has been threatening an all-out sectarian war in Iraq as well.

"The phenomenon of Global Jihad in the Middle East is very troubling," added Ya'alon. "it threatens the stability and security of the region and beyond. Already now we are identifying terrorists linked to Global Jihad who hold passports from western countries and may return to them after finishing their work."

During the conference Ya'alon met with defense ministers from France, England, Spain, Italy and Poland, as well as the Interior Minister of Germany.