Blinken due in Saudi Arabia for summit on global economy, Gaza

AFP , Saturday 27 Apr 2024

Washington's top diplomat is among leaders expected at a Saudi-hosted economic summit set to begin on Sunday with a strong focus on the grinding war in Gaza, organisers said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference, April 26, 2024, in Beijing, Chin
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference, on April 26, 2024, in Beijing, China. AP


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be "coming in directly from his visits in China and on his way to Israel," Borge Brende, president of the World Economic Forum (WEF), told a press conference on Saturday in Riyadh.

Other participants at the two-day WEF special meeting include Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and foreign ministers and prime ministers from across the Middle East and Europe.

These include foreign ministers from France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the EU and prime ministers from Qatar, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, according to a WEF press release.

A total of 12 heads of state and government feature among the more than 1,000 participants, Brende said on Saturday.

"There is some new momentum now in the talks around the hostages, and also for... a possible way out of the impasse we are faced with in Gaza," Brende said, without elaborating.

"There will be discussions, of course, on the ongoing humanitarian situation in Gaza" and "regional aspects also with Iran will be discussed" during what "has all the prospects for becoming a very consequential meeting."

Hamas said it was studying on Saturday the latest Israeli counterproposal regarding a potential ceasefire in Gaza, a day after media reports said a delegation from mediator Egypt arrived in Israel in a bid to jump-start stalled negotiations.

Saudi Arabia has never recognised Israel but was considering doing so before October 7, and talks continue on a deal that would also see Riyadh and Washington bolster their security partnership.

Saudi officials fear the war in Gaza and a potential regional conflagration could stymie the Gulf kingdom's ambitious Vision 2030 social and economic reform agenda, which is meant to lay the groundwork for an eventual post-oil future.

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