Antony Blinken pushes for ‘lasting’ peace deal with Gaza during regional tour

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Washington’s top diplomat arrived in Egypt as the United States pushed for a “lasting” end to the four-month war between Israel and Hamas and for the release of other hostages held in Gaza.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday before his departure for Qatar. Both Arab states are working with the United States to secure a deal between Israel and Hamas that would lead to a week-long pause in the war in Gaza and the release of the remaining hostages held by the Palestinian militant group.

Mediators are waiting for Hamas to respond to the latest proposal, which the militants, who still hold more than 130 hostages, have said they are studying.

The move, which calls for a six-week pause in the conflict, comes after officials from Qatar, Egypt and the United States met with Israeli intelligence chiefs in Paris nine days ago in a bid to break a deadlock that has hampered the mediation efforts.

Weeks of negotiations had been bogged down by Israel’s refusal to accept Hamas’s demand for a permanent ceasefire at the end of a multi-stage deal – something the mediators were also pushing for – people briefed on the negotiations said. The latest iteration agreed in Paris no longer guarantees a permanent truce.

Blinken also wants to reassure Arab states that the United States is seeking to de-escalate hostilities in the region sparked by the war between Israel and Hamas, after American forces launched a wave of retaliatory attacks against Iranian-backed militants during the weekend.

Blinken met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday to discuss the “urgent need to reduce regional tensions, including ceasing Houthi attacks that undermine both freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and progress in the peace process in Yemen,” according to the American state. Department.

The United States has launched numerous attacks against the Houthis in response to attacks by Iran-backed rebels on commercial vessels and warships. The escalation comes as Saudi Arabia, which intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 to fight rebels, is working on a peace process with the Houthis and trying to exit the conflict.

“The Secretary and the Crown Prince continued discussions on regional coordination to achieve a lasting end to the crisis in Gaza that ensures lasting peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians,” a State Department spokesperson said.

He added that they also discussed “the importance of building a more integrated and prosperous region and reaffirmed the strategic partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia.”

The United States and Arab states are working on an initiative under which the normalization of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel could be an important element of a broader plan to secure a solution to the protracted Israeli-Palestinian crisis and create a path to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

US-led talks on a deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel were gaining momentum last year but faltered after a Hamas attack on Israel that sparked war in Gaza.

But Blinken’s visit – his fifth to the region since the conflict began – comes amid growing concerns that the United States is being drawn into a broader regional conflagration.

The Israeli offensive against Hamas in the besieged Strip has killed more than 27,000 people, according to Palestinian health officials. According to Israeli officials, around 1,200 people were killed in the October 7 attack.

The United States launched retaliatory strikes in Iraq, Syria and Yemen last weekend in retaliation for a drone attack on a base in Jordan last month that killed three American soldiers.

At the Pentagon on Monday, press secretary Major General Patrick Ryder said the United States had damaged or destroyed more than eight targets at seven sites, three in Syria and four in Iraq, and warned of more attacks to come .

“This is the beginning of our response and there will be further action,” Ryder said. The attacks in Syria and Iraq targeted Iranian facilities linked to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards for the first time.

While the U.S. military was still analyzing the attacks and said there were some casualties, these did not include Iranians, Ryder said.

Blinken will fly to Israel after meeting with Qatari officials in Doha.

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