US Secretary of State Blinken initiates Gaza diplomacy tour with a meeting with Turkey’s Erdogan, and will subsequently visit Israel and the occupied West Bank amidst the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
Antony Blinken, the United States Secretary of State, engaged in diplomatic discussions with senior Turkish officials in Istanbul as part of the initial phase of his week-long trip. This diplomatic mission is strategically crafted to address and alleviate heightened tensions that have intensified across the Middle East since the commencement of Israel’s conflict with Gaza in October.
During his meeting with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Secretary Blinken emphasized several key objectives. These included the imperative to prevent the further escalation of the ongoing conflict, securing the release of hostages, expanding humanitarian assistance to those affected, and actively working towards minimizing civilian casualties. These discussions are part of broader efforts to foster diplomatic solutions and mitigate the regional impact of the conflict.
Antony Blinken, the United States Secretary of State, placed significant emphasis on the necessity of working towards a broader and enduring regional peace during his diplomatic engagements with Turkish officials in Istanbul. This marked the commencement of a week-long diplomatic tour aimed at addressing and mitigating tensions stemming from the Israel-Gaza conflict.
In his discussions with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Secretary Blinken underscored the importance of Turkey’s potential influence and diplomatic ties to help prevent the escalation of the conflict in the Middle East. He highlighted the critical role Turkey could play in the post-conflict phase, addressing challenges related to Palestinian-led governance, security, and reconstruction. Moreover, the discussions centered on Turkey’s contribution to fostering lasting and durable peace and security in the region.
Speaking to journalists in Crete on Saturday evening, Blinken expressed the multifaceted role Turkey could play, both in immediate conflict prevention and in the long-term efforts towards sustainable peace. He acknowledged the challenging questions surrounding the governance, security, and rebuilding of Gaza, emphasizing Turkey’s potential positive impact.
The meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan was another crucial element of Blinken’s diplomatic efforts. Conversations focused on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with Fidan pointing to Israel’s escalating aggression and the broader threat it poses to the region. Fidan stressed the urgency of an immediate ceasefire, allowing unimpeded aid delivery, and emphasized the need to swiftly return to negotiations for a two-state solution.
Overall, these diplomatic engagements reflect a concerted effort to involve key regional players in addressing the complexities of the Israel-Gaza conflict and working towards comprehensive and lasting solutions for peace and stability.
The strained relationship between the United States and Turkey has roots predating the current conflict, marked by ongoing feuds over various foreign policy issues, including matters related to NATO and Iraq.
One source of tension is the delay in the US Congress’s approval for a $20 billion deal involving 40 F-16 fighter jets for Turkey. Washington, in turn, is waiting for Turkey to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO. Antony Blinken, during his discussions with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, addressed Ankara’s process to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership, indicating progress in the final steps of the approval process.
US officials express confidence that Ankara will soon approve Sweden’s accession, particularly after it gained approval from the Turkish parliament last month. This optimistic outlook was shared by a senior State Department official traveling with Secretary Blinken.
Blinken’s diplomatic efforts extended beyond Turkey, with a subsequent visit to the island of Crete for discussions with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Greece, also a NATO member, is awaiting the US Congress’s approval for the sale of F-35 fighter jets, adding another layer of complexity to the ongoing diplomatic engagements in the region.
Antony Blinken’s upcoming diplomatic tour will include visits to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and the occupied West Bank. During these engagements, he aims to convey Washington’s stance against a regional escalation of the Gaza conflict. Blinken will also address the humanitarian crisis and discuss the governance of Gaza in the post-conflict scenario, particularly concerning the potential eradication of Hamas.
The trip carries three main messages: deescalation of the conflict, addressing the humanitarian crisis, and planning for the aftermath of the war. Washington expresses concerns about statements from the Israeli government, particularly regarding the displacement of people. There is a desire to exert pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, aligning with London, Paris, and Berlin’s position that the status quo in Gaza should not be altered.
Blinken has emphasized Washington’s interest in involving regional countries, including Turkey, in the reconstruction, governance, and potentially security aspects of the Gaza Strip. Hamas has governed Gaza since 2007. The revised death toll from Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7 is reported at 22,722 people, with 58,166 wounded. The revised death toll from the October attack on Israel is 1,139 people.