Blinken to push for ceasefire deal in coming trip to Middle East

US Secretary of State will visit Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Qatar in effort to secure ceasefire for hostage deal

This will be US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's eighth trip to the region since October 7. Reuters
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to the Middle East next week in an effort to push through a ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel.

Mr Blinken is expected to visit Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Qatar in what will be his eighth trip to the region since October 7, the State Department confirmed on Friday.

The latest diplomatic effort comes as hopes for a possible ceasefire deal, which President Joe Biden announced late last month, begin to fade.

“The Secretary will discuss with partners the need to reach a ceasefire agreement that secures the release of all hostages,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

“He will emphasise the importance of Hamas accepting the proposal on the table.”

On May 31, Mr Biden outlined for the first time a three-phase proposal that would see Hamas release hostages in exchange for a temporary ceasefire that could eventually lead to a full cessation of the bitter conflict.

More than 36,600 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched strikes and a ground offensive in the Palestinian enclave.

This followed the Hamas-led attacks on southern Israeli communities on October 7, in which 1,200 people were killed and about 250 abducted.

It has been by far the deadliest iteration of the decades-long conflict, and neither Israel nor Hamas have displayed an appetite to end it.

Mr Biden has said the proposal currently on the table “offers a concrete road map for ending the crisis”.

According to the US, Israel has signed off on the proposal, which is “nearly identical” to what Hamas asked for on May 6.

But leading members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right cabinet have threatened to leave the fragile coalition if Israel accepts the latest deal.

Hamas, meanwhile, has yet to accept the terms, and the potential deal appears to be slipping away.

White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said on Friday that mediators are still waiting for an official response from Hamas, and that Mr Biden, who is currently on a visit to France, would discuss the issue with his counterpart Emmanuel Macron during their meeting on Saturday.

Earlier this week, CIA Director William Burns was in Doha and Mr Biden’s top Middle East adviser Brett McGurk was in Egypt in an effort to push the proposal through.

Mr Blinken appears to be the third spear in Mr Biden’s diplomatic trident.

In addition to efforts to secure a ceasefire, Mr Blinken is also expected to outline how the latest peace proposal has the potential to lead to an end of hostilities along the Israel-Lebanon border, where Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants have been engaged in tit-for-tat attacks for months.

“The Secretary will also continue to reiterate the need to prevent the conflict from escalating further,” Mr Miller said.

The trip comes before a planned visit by Mr Netanyahu to the US on July 24, during which the Israeli leader is expected to address a joint session of Congress.

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Updated: June 07, 2024, 7:09 PM