Washington has asked Israel to rethink a potential partnership with a China-linked firm in the creation of a new salination plant, ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Jerusalem, according to reports.

Hutchison Water International, which is owned by a Hong Kong-based holding company, is one of two companies competing for a tender to construct the facility, known as Sorek 2. The contract is worth $1.5 billion and the winner will also be tasked with operating the plant for 25 years. According to Israel’s Channel 13, Washington has pressured the Israeli government to reassess the potential deal.

Pompeo, who flew to Tel Aviv on Wednesday, is expected to bring up the infrastructure project when he meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. The pair are also expected to discuss Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank, as well as issues surrounding Iran.

For months, Washington has been pressing its allies to cut business ties with Chinese firms, arguing that such partnerships undermine security and strategic infrastructure.

Pompeo has redoubled these efforts amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, claiming that Beijing must be held accountable for allegedly misleading the world about the virus.

The Chinese government has scoffed at Pompeo’s accusations, describing the top US diplomat as the ringleader of a “clown show” designed to shift focus away from Washington’s handling of the crisis.

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