Blinken arrives in Saudi Arabia to discuss post-war Gaza


In Riyadh, Blinken is expected to meet with senior Saudi leaders and hold a wider meeting with counterparts from five Arab states…reports Asian Lite News

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Riyadh on Monday as part of his travel to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel.

In Saudi Arabia, Blinken will participate in a Ministerial meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council to advance coordination on regional security, the US State Department said.

At the World Economic Forum’s special meeting on global collaboration, growth, and energy for Development, Blinken will coordinate with US partners to ensure continued progress on climate change mitigation and the global energy transition.

During his April 29-May 1 visit to meet Arab partners of the US, Blinken will discuss ongoing efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza that secures the release of hostages.

The US Secretary of State will discuss the recent increase in humanitarian assistance being delivered to Gaza and underscore the importance of ensuring that increase is sustained.

Blinken will also emphasize the importance of preventing the conflict from spreading and discuss ongoing efforts to achieve lasting peace and security in the region, including through a pathway to an independent Palestinian state with security guarantees for Israel, the US State Department said.

The State Department announced that the top American diplomat will also travel to Israel and Jordan.

Blinken arrived in Riyadh hours after US President Joe Biden and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone about ongoing talks to halt Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip in return for the release of hostages.

CNN reported that a senior State Department official told reporters travelling with Blinken on Sunday that he will meet with Saudi officials and foreign ministers from the region regarding the future of Gaza.

Blinken told CNN in an interview earlier that it could be possible to roll out a framework for the normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia along with a two-state solution proposal for Israel and the Palestinians before a ceasefire is in place.

Blinken’s tour of the Middle East coincides with the arrival of a Hamas delegation in Egypt with a response to the latest ceasefire proposal presented to the group.

The new stops of Israel and Jordan were added to Blinken’s visit after US President Joe Biden talked to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on phone on Sunday.

As Blinken’s plane refuelled in Ireland, a Department of State official confirmed to the news agency that Blinken will travel to these two countries from Saudi Arabia.

In their call, Biden and Netanyahu discussed the ongoing efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas and the expected invasion of Rafah, the southern Gazan town where more than 1 million Palestinians displaced from the war are sheltering and where Israel says multiple Hamas battalions are also making their last stand.

Previously, State Department Spokesperson Mathew Miller had said that Blinken during his visit will emphasise that it is Hamas that is roadblocking a ceasefire in Gaza as it is not budging on negotiations.

Separately, French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné is also headed to Riyadh. He is travelling to Saudi Arabia from Lebanon where he held talks aimed to ease the tensions between Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which has clashed with Israel on a nearly-daily basis since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas War in October 2023.

Ahead of the arrival of its delegation in Egypt with a response to the ceasefire proposal, Hamas on Sunday said it had no “major issues” with it.

“The atmosphere is positive unless there are new Israeli obstacles. There are no major issues in the observations and inquiries submitted by Hamas regarding the contents [of the proposal],” said a Hamas official.

The United States along with regional partners Qatar and Egypt have been facilitating negotiations between Israel and Hamas for a deal that would institute a truce in Gaza and free hostages. While the talks were stalled for weeks, there have been reports that negotiations have picked pace lately. Axios has reported that, for the first time in the talks so far, the latest ceasefire proposal has included Israel’s willingness to discuss the end of the war in Gaza.

In Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah, chaired a meeting with his counterparts from Jordan and Egypt as well as diplomats from Qatar, the UAE and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation to discuss a ceasefire in Gaza and efforts to achieve an independent Palestinian state.

The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, warned in an address at the World Economic Forum that ground troops entering Rafah could cause mass displacement and “the biggest catastrophe in the Palestinian people’s history”.

“We call on the United States of America to ask Israel to not carry on the Rafah attack,” he said. “America is the only country able to prevent Israel from committing this crime.”

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