Antony Blinken arrives in Cairo on regional tour to shore up ceasefire

US Secretary of State vows to rally support for Gaza without helping Hamas

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrive for a news conference in Jerusalem. Reuters
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrive for a news conference in Jerusalem. Reuters

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet leaders in Cairo and Amman today as part of his tour of the Middle East to consolidate last week’s ceasefire that ended a war between Israel and Hamas.

In Cairo, Mr Blinken is to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.

He is also expected to meet King Abdullah II in Amman later this afternoon.

Mr Blinken began his visit to the region in Israel, where he held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who warned Hamas against any resumption of hostilities.

The US willd throw its weight behind a rally of diplomatic support for the Palestinian people and the administration was seeking $75 million in development and economic aid, Mr Blinken said. The US will also advance the process of reopening its Jerusalem consulate that had served as its diplomatic channel to the Palestinians, he said.

The 11-day war between Israel and Hamas left at least 248 dead in Gaza – mostly civilians including at least 66 children – and 12 dead in Israel, including two children. The fourth conflict since 2006 caused widespread destruction in the impoverished coastal territory.

While the truce that came into effect on Friday has so far held, it does not address any of the underlying issues in the conflict, something Mr Blinken acknowledged after meeting with Mr Netanyahu.

Later, speaking alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday, Mr Blinken said that Washington would provide new aid to help rebuild Gaza. He reiterated that Washington intended to ensure that Hamas, which it regards as a terrorist organisation, did not benefit from the humanitarian aid.

"I say this as a father," Mr Blinken said. "No child, whether Israeli, Palestinian or American is a statistic. We know the human consequences when violence takes the upper hand and we are determined that that will not be the case."

Crowds of Palestinians protested against Mr Blinken's meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday. Some demonstrators carried coffins to represent the children who died in the recent surge in violence between Israel and Palestinian militant groups.

Meanwhile, in an interview with The National, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said the international community needs to engage in concerted efforts to revive the Arab-Israeli peace process.

"I genuinely believe that providing humanitarian assistance will not be enough to prevent a new cycle of violence in Gaza,” UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini said.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is also in the region for talks with senior leaders after the Gaza ceasefire. Mr Raab will meet Mr Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Mr Abbas in Ramallah during his one-day visit.

Updated: May 26, 2021 02:57 PM

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