Blinken begins his seventh tour to Middle East since war on Gaza began

AP , AFP , Monday 29 Apr 2024

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday begins his seventh diplomatic mission to the Middle East since the Israel-Hamas war began more than six months ago.

Saudi Arabia s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan (R) receives US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretariat in Riyadh on April 29, 2024. AFP


Just ahead of Blinken’s visit — which includes a little more than a day in Saudi Arabia before stops in Jordan and Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday — President Joe Biden spoke by phone Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Blinken’s trip comes amid renewed concerns about the conflict spreading in the Middle East and with once-promising prospects for Israeli-Saudi rapprochement effectively on hold as Israel refuses to consider one of the Saudis’ main conditions for normalized relations: the creation of a Palestinian state.

In Saudi Arabia, Blinken is expected to hold new talks with the Saudi leadership on potential normalisation of relations with Israel, a State Department official said.

Blinken will also meet in Riyadh with a number of Gulf Arab and European foreign ministers who are visiting for a World Economic Forum meeting and Gulf Cooperation Council talks.

Blinken will discuss with the countries "day-after" plans for reconstruction of post-war Gaza, the State Department official said.

Plans could include funding to rebuild Gaza -- the vast majority of whose people have been displaced -- or support for installing new governance structures.

Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been trying to mediate a new truce between Israel and Hamas for months, as public pressure mounts for a deal.

Biden also reiterated concerns about Israel launching an operation in Rafah, the southern Gaza city where more than one million Palestinians have taken shelter.

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