Middle East foreign ministers lobby US for Gaza ceasefire

Secretary of State Blinken has acknowledged ‘gap’ between Israel’s commitment to protecting civilians and reality

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second left, in discussions with Foreign Ministers from the Organisation for Islamic Co-operation and Arab League at the State Department in Washington. Reuters
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Foreign ministers from the Middle East visited Washington on Friday and called for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza war – a fruitless diplomatic push as the US rejected a UN resolution calling for a truce.

“We believe it is absolutely necessary to end the fighting immediately,” said Prince Faisal bin Farhan of Saudi Arabia, speaking on behalf of a group of representatives from the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation.

The group met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday, but only after the US had vetoed a resolution at the UN Security Council calling for a ceasefire.

The meeting discussed “our shared goal of establishing a future Palestinian state alongside Israel”, Mr Blinken said in a post on X.

“Urgently addressing humanitarian needs in Gaza is a shared priority for both the United States and Saudi Arabia,” he wrote in a separate post after meeting Prince Faisal.

The Saudi Foreign Minister called for urgent steps towards a ceasefire in Gaza and the delivery of food and medical supplies.

He said he told Mr Blinken that all possible efforts must be made to reduce the threat of war in Gaza spreading, with “dangerous repercussions on international peace and security”, the state Saudi Press Agency reported.

Stability needs to be restored as well as a “path of peace to ensure that the Palestinian people obtain their legitimate rights”, he said.

Mr Blinken said they also discussed “the need to end the devastating conflicts in Yemen and Sudan”.

He was expected to meet other ministers from the delegation, which comprised representatives of Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority.

Mr Blinken has been heavily involved in diplomatic efforts concerning the war and has travelled to the Middle East three times since the Hamas attacks on Israel in October.

While the US continues to support Israel and its efforts to defeat Hamas, Washington has increasingly called on it to do more to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

More than 17,400 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the enclave's Health Ministry, since Israel declared war.

On Thursday, Mr Blinken said that Israel must do more to protect civilians.

“It remains imperative that Israel put a premium on civilian protection and that there does remain a gap between exactly what I said when I was there: the intent to protect civilians and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground,” he said.

Mr Blinken met Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on Thursday.

The two discussed the importance of “preventing the conflict from spreading” and of continuing efforts to enable the “safe return of all remaining hostages while sustaining humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza”, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Updated: December 09, 2023, 7:59 AM