Kamala Harris to lead US delegation to Munich as war rages in Gaza and Ukraine aid stalls

Vice President will lead a group that includes Secretary of State to Munich Security Conference

US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a campaign rally in South Carolina. Getty Images / AFP
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US Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Munich, Germany, this week to attend a major annual security conference as world leaders look to shore up support for Ukraine and reach a deal that would see hostages released from Gaza in exchange for an extended pause in fighting.

Ms Harris heads to Europe at a precarious time, with US funding for Ukraine hanging in the balance in a divided Congress and Israel preparing for a major military operation in Rafah, a last refuge for displaced Palestinians.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed a $95 billion security package that would send aid to Ukraine and Israel.

But the package could be destined for failure in the House of Representatives, with Speaker Mike Johnson, a staunch ally of former president Donald Trump, stating his refusal to bring the bill up for a vote, even though it has bipartisan support.

The move has angered Democrats, including President Joe Biden, who urged Mr Johnson to bring the bill up for a vote immediately.

“You're going to stand with Ukraine or you're going to stand with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin? Will you stand with America or Trump?” Mr Biden said in an address from the White House.

He added that in addition to providing Ukraine with $60 billion in military aid, the package would also provide important support for Israel.

“It will provide Israel with what it needs to protect its people against Hamas terrorists. Significantly, this agreement will provide life-saving humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people, the vast majority of whom have nothing to do with Hamas,” he said.

The stalled bill will likely cast a shadow over Ms Harris’s engagements while in Munich, where she is expected to give a “a major foreign policy speech”, the White House said.

She will lead a US delegation that includes Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who will also travel to Albania before the conference, which starts on Friday.

Mr Blinken is expected to focus his diplomatic efforts and engagements on the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East.

“We expect that the secretary will talk about these things in his engagements but as well as talking about the very important matters of ensuring that additional steps be taken to minimise the impact on civilians, as well as additional steps be taken to ensure that humanitarian aid can continue to flow into Gaza,” State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said.

Washington has been actively talking with partners in Egypt and Qatar to iron out a new proposal to halt the fighting in Gaza.

Earlier this week, CIA director William Burns met Israeli, Egyptian and Qatari officials in Cairo to work towards a deal that would lead to hostages being released in exchange for an extended pause in fighting.

A similar proposal, with major addendums by Hamas, was recently rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The King of Jordan, President of Yemen, prime ministers of Lebanon, Iraq and Qatar and foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Oman are all expected to attend the annual conference in Munich this year as the war in Gaza continues to rage.

Updated: February 14, 2024, 5:04 PM