Blinken in Saudi Arabia before heading to Israel

(Abu Dhabi) The head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken meets Monday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as part of an intense tour focused on ways to avoid a regional flaring of the conflict in the Gaza Strip, before go to Israel.

This tour – his fourth since the start of the devastating war between Israel and Palestinian Hamas on October 7 – has already taken him to Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Qatar and Monday to the United Arab Emirates.

In Abu Dhabi, Blinken spoke with United Arab Emirates President Mohammed bin Zayed about the situation in war-torn Gaza and Sudan, according to State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

He “stressed the importance of urgently responding to humanitarian needs in Gaza” and thanked the Emirates for “its important contribution to delivering humanitarian aid to civilians” in Gaza, the spokesperson said.

Mr. Blinken insisted, according to the spokesperson, on the need “to prevent the conflict from spreading further” and recalled Washington’s commitment to ensuring “a lasting peace that guarantees Israel’s security and promotes the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

Mr. Blinken is due to travel to Israel in the evening for talks on Tuesday which promise to be tense, then to the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, and to Egypt.

“This is a moment of deep tension in the region. This is a conflict that could easily metastasize causing even more insecurity and more suffering,” Blinken warned Sunday evening in Doha, Qatar, as the war entered its fourth month.

The objective of Mr. Blinken’s tour is threefold, according to American officials: to avoid an escalation and in particular that tensions between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah, an ally of Iran, spill out of control, to press Israel to enter in a new phase of its military campaign in Gaza less costly in Palestinian lives, and engage in a “difficult” dialogue on the post-war period.

Faced with a death toll which now exceeds 22,800 deaths in the Gaza Strip according to the Hamas government, the American Secretary of State considers it “particularly important that to the extent that (military) operations continue, they are designed to protect the civilians and allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to the people who need it, and not the other way around.

Mr. Blinken also strives to see how each country could contribute in the post-war period, whether in terms of reconstruction in Gaza or its governance.


In Saudi Arabia, talks in the historic city of Al-Ula between Mr. Blinken and Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, are expected to include attacks by Yemen’s Houthis against merchant ships in the Red Sea. in support of the Palestinians.

A US-led coalition to protect shipping in the Red Sea has urged the Houthis, close to Iran, to stop these attacks which disrupt global trade or face the “consequences”.

The subject is delicate for the Saudis, who intervene in the civil war in Yemen in support of the government against the Houthi rebels, while a truce negotiated in April 2022 expired in October even if the country is experiencing a relative lull.

Furthermore, if there is no question in the current context of a resumption of discussions between Israel and Saudi Arabia on a possible normalization of their relations, under the auspices of the United States, the subject remains no less in the background.

Before the war between Israel and Hamas broke out, progress in negotiations had been noted on both sides and Mr. Blinken had even planned to visit the kingdom for detailed discussions on the subject.

But the United States has not lost sight of the long-term objective, and the meeting with Mohammed bin Salman should make it possible to sound out the Saudis, according to a senior American official speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Gulf kingdom, guardian of Islam’s first holy sites, did not adhere to the 2020 Abraham Accords, brokered by the United States, which allowed its neighbors, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, as well that in Morocco, to establish official ties with Israel.


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