Blinken to travel to Israel, West Bank and North Africa

US secretary of state will underscore Washington's 'unwavering' commitment to Israeli security while seeking to strengthen US-Palestinian relations

US State Secretary Antony Blinken will begin his trip in Israel on Saturday and remain in the region until Wednesday. EPA
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Israel, the West Bank, Morocco and Algeria, the State Department announced on Thursday.

Mr Blinken will also meet Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to “discuss regional security and international developments” while in Rabat next week.

Yael Lempert, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, told reporters that they will broadly discuss “regional security and international development” in a “strategic conversation about the full range of international issues before us".

“This is a valued and really important strategic relationship for us and it’s an opportune moment for this meeting,” said Ms Lempert. “There's a lot to discuss.”

Mr Blinken will visit Israel on Saturday and remain in the region through Wednesday.

“During the course of his trip, the secretary will emphasise to all of the foreign leaders he meets that the United States stands in solidarity with the government and people of Ukraine in the face of the Kremlin’s aggression,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

“We will continue to work closely with our allies and partners to impose further costs on [Russian President Vladimir Putin] and his enablers if Putin does not change course.”

The trip agenda will also include issues such as Iran, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Abraham Accords.

Mr Blinken will meet Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defence Minister Benny Gantz and President Isaac Herzog before moving on to Ramallah where he will meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and representatives from Palestinian civil society.

Mr Price said that the secretary’s meetings will “underscore the unwavering US commitment to Israel’s security” while emphasising “the importance of strengthening US-Palestinian relations”.

Ms Lempert also noted that Mr Blinken will discuss President Joe Biden's stalled bid to reopen the Jerusalem consulate for Palestinians during his meetings with Israeli leadership and Mr Abbas.

She also said that he is likely to raise the issue of Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank.

“I will say that the State Department has made the administration's view clear,” said Ms Lempert. “We believe it is critical for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tension and undercut efforts to negotiate a two-state solution.”

While in Morocco, Mr Blinken will meet Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and in Algeria, he will meet President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra.

Ms Lempert said that the agenda will also include “building support for the UN's engagement on Western Sahara".

Updated: March 24, 2022, 10:26 PM