US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, visited the West Bank on Tuesday on a tour where he is appealing for a halt to violence and reaffirming Washington’s backing for a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Reuters reports.
Blinken is urging calm on both sides after last week’s killing by a Palestinian gunman of seven people in Occupied East Jerusalem in the worst such attack in the Jerusalem area for years.
He was set to repeat the message at a meeting with Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah.
Last week, Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) suspended its security cooperation agreement with Israel after the largest raid in years, when Israeli Forces penetrated deep into a refugee camp in the northern city of Jenin, setting off a gunfight in which 10 Palestinians were killed.
PA leaders are angry after months of raids by Israeli Forces in the Occupied West Bank.
In January alone, 35 Palestinians have been killed in protests with Israeli troops, in the bloodiest month since 2015, while officials say attacks on Palestinian property by Israeli settlers have also increased.
Blinken is also expected to highlight US assistance to the Palestinian economy, which is heavily dependent on foreign aid.
Before meeting Abbas, Blinken visited Deir Dibwan, a town near Ramallah that is home to many Palestinian Americans, and met civil society leaders and business people.
Two-state solution hopes fade
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, back in power at the head of one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history, has reinforced troops in the West Bank and promised measures to strengthen settlements there but, so far, held off from more extreme steps.
On Tuesday, Blinken met Israeli Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, and discussed cooperation to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon as well the situation in the West Bank.
Hopes of achieving a two-state solution, with an independent Palestinian State based largely in the West Bank alongside Israel have all but disappeared since the last round of US-sponsored talks stalled in 2014.
The Biden administration has said it would re-establish a Consulate for Palestinians, shuttered by former President Donald Trump, but has yet to say when or where it will be opened.