Blinken condemns food insecurity in Gaza at presser with FM Shoukry in Cairo

Zeinab El-Gundy , Thursday 21 Mar 2024

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that 100 percent of the population in Gaza is experiencing severe levels of acute food insecurity, calling unacceptable the death of children from malnutrition.

Sameh Shoukry
Egypt s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken give a joint press conference following a meeting between the US top diplomat and Arab envoys, in Cairo on March, 21, 2024. AFP


“We can’t and we must not allow that to continue,” the US secretary of state said in a joint press conference with Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry following his meeting with Arab officials.

Blinken also stressed that any Israeli military operation in Rafah would worsen the situation since there were currently one and a half million displaced Palestinians in the Gaza border city, affirming that the United States rejects any forced displacement of Palestinians in Gaza or the re-occupation of the strip.

He refused, however, to comment on a question about the United States' position in case Israel invades Rafah and whether it will continue to supply it with weapons, considering such a question to be about future matters that he refuses to comment on.

Nonetheless, he reaffirmed that by invading Rafah, Israel would be making a huge mistake.

Blinken said that the ceasefire agreement that the United States is currently working on would be the best and most immediate way to provide humanitarian assistance to the strip through land, sea and air.

He added that though there has been some improvement in the entry of human assistance to the strip in the past two weeks, the amount of aid entering Gaza was still far from enough.

Gaps are narrowing

Furthermore, Blinken stated that the United States has been working with Egypt, Qatar, and Israel to put forward a strong proposal regarding the situation in the Gaza Strip.

He also said that Hamas has responded to the US ceasefire proposal and that efforts are being made to overcome the obstacles, stressing that the negotiations in Doha are progressing towards an agreement.

He said "gaps are narrowing" in talks. "It's difficult to get there, but I believe it is still possible."

Moreover, he highlighted that the United States has presented a draft resolution to the Security Council to push forward these efforts and that the US looks forward to drawing support for the recent draft from all member states.

The US top diplomat reiterated the commitment of the United States, in alignment with Israel, to address the challenges posed by Hamas while emphasizing the importance of refraining from military operations in Rafah.

Furthermore, discussions are underway for Israeli officials to visit the United States to explore alternative strategies to avoid further harm to civilians, he said.

Blinken also stressed the necessity for reforms within the Palestinian Authority to better represent the aspirations of Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza. He pledged support for these reforms upon their commitment.

Highlighting regional integration as pivotal for sustainable peace and security, Blinken emphasized during his visit to Riyad the ongoing efforts towards normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The United States and Saudi Arabia, he said, have made "good progress" in talks on normalizing ties with Israel. 

"I believe we can reach an agreement, which would present a historic opportunity for the two nations and the region as a whole," Blinken said in Cairo.
No to another Nakba

For his part, Minister Shoukry said he and the Arab officials emphasized to the US Secretary of State the necessity for Israel not to carry out its operation in Rafah.

Shoukry noted that US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have rejected Israel's invasion of Rafah, which would result in the displacement of Palestinians.

Furthermore, the Egyptian top diplomat said he discussed with his American counterpart the need for a ceasefire, the release of captives and prisoners, and the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.      

Shoukry stressed that Palestinians are well aware of the intentions to liquidate the Palestinian cause and push towards a new “Nakba” and that they have shown unprecedented resilience nevertheless.

He called for a settlement according to the two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.

Furthermore, Shoukry expressed concern about the double standards in dealing with the Palestinian cause compared to other conflicts worldwide, emphasizing that the international norm dictates an immediate cessation of hostilities and military activities in any conflict and subsequent resort to diplomatic means as the ultimate way of resolving them.

“The moral basis on which we rely for a world order is currently being strained due to a widespread sense, among ourselves and many of our Arab and Muslim colleagues, that a double standard is being applied,” Shoukry said.

"This perception should be acknowledged as a significant challenge to the ability to work together and to maintain cooperation based on a consistent set of principles that should guide all actions," he noted.

Blinken, who arrived in Cairo from Saudi Arabia, held a meeting with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar, along with the Minister of State for International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates and the Secretary-General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization to discuss the developments in Gaza.

According to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s statement about the meeting, the discussions with Blinken focused on efforts to achieve a comprehensive ceasefire in Gaza, increase aid access, and implement UN Security Council Resolution 2720.

In addition, the meeting provided the opportunity to reaffirm the rejection of any attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause or displace the Palestinian people from their land.

The Arab officials also emphasized opposition to any military operation in Rafah, stressing the necessity of implementing the two-state solution and establishing the Palestinian state.

They warned of the growing regional repercussions of expanding the conflict in a way that threatens the stability and security of the region and the entire world.

The Arab ministers briefed the US Secretary of State on their vision regarding dealing with the current situation and the necessity of a ceasefire in Gaza, followed by a transition to a new phase of tangible measures to reach a political settlement.

A follow-up meeting of experts will discuss crucial steps to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

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