Home News Blinken meets with Arab officials to discuss Gaza, postwar plans

Blinken meets with Arab officials to discuss Gaza, postwar plans

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Saudi Arabia on Monday to discuss the war between Israel and Hamas and the thorny issues it raises with Arab officials, including humanitarian aid and hostages. Blinken plans to travel to Jordan and Israel on Tuesday.

After arriving in the Saudi capital Riyadh shortly after dawn, Blinken met with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and then with the foreign ministers of five other Arab Gulf states and a senior foreign policy adviser with Saudi Arabia. Arabs come together to form the Gulf Cooperation Council. Prince Faisal also attended the second meeting.

The State Department first laid out the ceasefire and hostage issues in a summary of Blinken’s one-on-one meeting with the prince. The department said the two “discussed ongoing efforts for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas”.

The two diplomats also talked about greater regional integration and “a path to a Palestinian state that provides security for Israel,” the summary said. This refers to negotiations on a broad agreement that would involve the United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Palestinian representatives agreeing on terms that would create a Palestinian state and strengthen diplomatic recognition of Israel in the region.

Blinken plans to meet with Arab and European officials later Monday to discuss plans to rebuild Gaza, even as Israel continues to fight a war there and has not given up on its difficult — and perhaps impossible — goal of rooting out Hamas.

Saudi Arabia is hosting a three-day meeting of the World Economic Forum and senior Arab officials, including Mr Blinken’s diplomats, will attend the event in Riyadh.The meeting was attended by senior ministers from Qatar and Egypt, the two Arab countries that have been mediators in many rounds of negotiations. Israel, Hamas negotiate potential ceasefire.

“The quickest way to end this situation is to have a ceasefire and release the hostages,” Blinken said in an onstage conversation with World Economic Forum President Bolger Brende. “Hamas has a very generous offer from Israel in front of it. Right now, the only obstacle that is standing in the way of a ceasefire for the people of Gaza is Hamas.”

“I hope they make the right decision and we can fundamentally change the situation,” he added.

Blinken and other top aides to President Joe Biden have also been pushing for a long-term political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is where the broader agreement comes in. Blinken’s trip, Mr Biden spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday afternoon Nearly an hour.

According to a White House statement released after the call, the two leaders discussed “increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza,” with Biden reiterating his warning against an Israeli ground attack on Rafah in southern Gaza. He also reviewed negotiations with Mr Netanyahu on the release of the hostages.

In the best-case scenario, the Biden administration expects Saudi Arabia and some other Arab countries to agree to normalize diplomatic ties with Israel. In exchange, Saudi Arabia will receive advanced weapons and security guarantees, including a mutual defense treatyfrom the United States and committed to cooperate with the United States The Kingdom’s Civilian Nuclear Program.

U.S. and Saudi officials say Israel, for its part, must commit to a concrete path to a Palestinian state and set specific deadlines.

“I think it’s clear that if the Palestinians lack a real political vision, it will be more difficult, if not impossible, to come up with a coherent plan for Gaza itself,” Blinken said in a public speech on Monday.

Prince Faisal said on Sunday that Saudi officials hope to discuss concrete steps toward establishing a Palestinian state during Blinken’s visit to Riyadh. Calling the war and humanitarian crisis in Gaza “a complete failure of the existing political system,” he told a news conference that the Saudi government believed the only solution was “a reliable, irreversible path to a Palestinian state.”

Before the war broke out last October, U.S. and Saudi officials held intense discussions to agree on the terms of such a proposal. For those negotiators, a big question at the time was what Israel would agree to. Since the war began, the United States and Saudi Arabia have publicly insisted that Israel agree to the existence of a Palestinian state.

But since the Oct. 7 attacks, Israeli leaders and ordinary people have become more resistant to the idea. Israeli authorities said Hamas and its allied gunmen killed about 1,200 people in the attacks and took about 240 people hostage. Gaza health ministry officials said Israel’s retaliatory military offensive has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including thousands of children.

Vivian Nerem and Zoran Sugano-Youngs Contributed reporting.

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