US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Israel, the West Bank and Egypt next week, where he will push for an end to violence following a deadly Israeli raid, the State Department said Thursday.
Blinken will hold his first face-to-face talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since the veteran leader returned to power a month ago as head of Israel’s most right-wing government in history.
During his visit on Monday and Tuesday, he will also meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
Blinken “will underline the urgent need for the parties to take steps to de-escalate tensions to end the cycle of violence that has claimed too many innocent lives,” the Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Business, Ned Price.
The trip, which had been planned for a long time, comes after a major outbreak of violence. Nine Palestinians were killed Thursday in an Israeli raid on a crowded refugee camp in the West Bank town of Jenin, officials in the occupied territory said.
“We understand that there have been civilian casualties, which is very unfortunate,” Barbara Leaf, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, told reporters.
“Clearly things could get worse in terms of security,” she said.
Leaf expressed regret over the Palestinian Authority’s announcement that it would sever security cooperation with Israel over the raid.
“Instead of taking a step back in terms of security coordination, we believe it is very important that the parties maintain and, if possible, deepen security coordination,” she said.
Blinken will first visit Egypt on Sunday, a key intermediary between the Israelis and the Palestinians that has managed to maintain cordial ties with President Joe Biden’s administration despite vows to tighten on human rights issues.
Blinken will discuss regional issues, including Libya and Sudan, and meet with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the foreign ministry said.
Netanyahu has a fraught relationship with Biden’s Democratic Party and openly campaigns against former President Barack Obama’s Iran policies, and Biden is determined to get off to a good start with his latest administration.
Blinken’s trip follows a visit by Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, that focused largely on Iran — which remains a top concern for Netanyahu.
Blinken has said repeatedly that the Biden administration will judge Netanyahu’s government by “the policies they pursue, not the personalities” within them.
Those personalities include Itamar Ben-Gvir, who once hung a portrait in his home of a gunman who slaughtered Palestinian believers and now occupies a national security post.
Ben-Gvir sparked international concern in early January after visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is sacred to both Jews and Muslims.
Blinken will emphasize “the importance of maintaining the historical status quo” on the site the Jews call the Temple Mount.
The trip will be Blinken’s fourth to Jerusalem since becoming the top American diplomat. He first went in May 2021, months into his term, after violence flared up between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)
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