US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wraps up Middle East tour with little consensus on Gaza

Antony Blinken's Middle East trip made little progress in getting backing for a 'pause' in Gaza.

Antony Blinken's Middle East trip made little progress in getting backing for a 'pause' in Gaza. Photo: AP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has wrapped up a gruelling Middle East diplomatic tour with only limited success in efforts to forge a regional consensus on how to ease civilian suffering in Gaza.

Blinken met Turkey’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Ankara after a frantic weekend of travel that took him from Israel to Jordan, the occupied West Bank, Cyprus and Iraq to build support for the Biden administration’s proposal for “humanitarian pauses” to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

Blinken’s shuttle diplomacy came as Israeli troops surrounded Gaza City and cut off the northern part of the besieged Hamas-ruled territory.

Troops are expected to enter the city Monday or Tuesday, and are likely to face militants fighting street by street using a vast network of tunnels.

Casualties are likely to rise on both sides in the month-old war, which has already killed more than 9700 Palestinians, according to local health officials.

The top US diplomat hopes that pauses in the war would allow for a surge of humanitarian aid to Gaza and the release of hostages captured by Hamas during their deadly October 7 incursion into southern Israel that killed more than 1400 people – while also preventing the conflict from spreading regionally.

Blinken was not going to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been highly critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and an outlier among NATO allies in not expressing full support for Israel’s right to defend itself.

Blinken’s visit has repeatedly drawn protests by Palestinian supporters.

The US official found only tepid support for his efforts to contain the fallout from the conflict. Israel has rejected the idea of pauses while Arab and Muslim nations are instead demanding an immediate ceasefire as the casualty toll soars among Palestinian civilians under Israeli bombardments of Gaza.

The Biden administration, while remaining the strongest backer of Israel’s military response to Hamas’ attacks on October 7, is increasingly seeking to use its influence with Israel to try to temper the effect of Israel’s weeks of complete siege and near round-the-clock air, ground and sea assaults in Gaza, home to 2.3 million civilians.

Arab states are resisting American suggestions that they play a larger role in resolving the crisis, expressing outrage at the civilian toll of the Israeli military operations and believing Gaza to be a problem largely of Israel’s own making.


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