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Blinken on Middle East tour to prevent regional escalation of Gaza war

January 7, 2024 at 9:09 am

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman on January 7, 2024. [Photo by EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

The United States’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken is conducting an urgent tour of the Middle East in an effort to calm regional tensions, as fears continue to grow regarding a potential escalation of the war in Gaza.

In a press statement by the US State Department, it announced that Blinken’s sudden tour is for advancing humanitarian services during Israel’s ongoing invasion of and atrocities in Gaza, as well as for the purpose of “ensuring that Palestinians are not forcibly displaced from Gaza. He will also discuss urgent mechanisms to stem violence, calm rhetoric, and reduce regional tensions, including deterring Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and avoiding escalation in Lebanon

After arriving in Turkiye’s Istanbul on Friday to begin his week-long tour, Blinken met with president Recep Tayyip Erdogan for discussions in which the top American diplomat “emphasized the need to prevent the conflict [in Gaza] from spreading, secure the release of hostages, expand humanitarian assistance and reduce civilian casualties”, according to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

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Blinken reportedly stressed the need to work toward broader and more lasting peace in the region, one that both ensures Israel’s security and enables the establishment of a Palestinian state. According to a statement by Turkiye’s Foreign Ministry, its minister Hakan Fidan also talked with Blinken, discussing the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, as well as Ankara’s ongoing process to ratify Sweden’s membership into NATO.

Following his first stop in Turkiye, Blinken landed in the Greek island of Crete to meet with Greece’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, discussing the war in Gaza, the aggression of Yemen’s Houthi militia in the Red Sea, and Athens’ procurement of F-35 fighter jets.

The Secretary of State is then set to leave for the Middle East, stopping in Jordan, Qatar; the United Arab Emirates (UAE); Saudi Arabia; Israel; the West Bank; and Egypt.

In his upcoming visit to Israel, Blinken is reportedly expected to put pressure on prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take more action to protect civilians in Gaza and to allow more aid to enter the besieged territory, as well as to rein in far-right ministers in his coalition who have openly been calling for the expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza and the occupation and resettlement of Palestinian territories.

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