US secretary of state Antony Blinken continued his meetings with key Middle Eastern foreign ministers in Jordan on Saturday – and pushed for support planning a post-war future for Gaza.
Blinken is attempting to build support among leading Arab nations who remain wary as Israel intensifies its military operations in Gaza.
Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are calling for ‘an immediate ceasefire, delivering humanitarian aid and ways of ending the dangerous deterioration that threatens the security of the region,’ Jordan’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.
Blinken faced pressure to facilitate a ceasefire amidst the leader’s outrage about the bombardment and siege of the Gaza Strip.
‘We need to work together to stop this madness,’ Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, told the US secretary of state.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) shakes hands with Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani on Saturday
Antony Blinken met Arab leaders in Amman, Jordan where he heard calls for an immediate ceasefire and increased humanitarian aid
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry
The talks in Amman come just a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bluntly rejected calls for a huanitarian ceasefire after Blinken warned that Israel risks losing any hope of an eventual peace with the Palestinians unless it eases the humanitarian crisis.
Fierce battles also continued to rage between Israeli forces and Hamas fighters on the outskirts of Gaza City on Saturday.
Blinken met with Jordan’s foreign minister Ayman Safadi and Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
Mikati stressed the importance of working towards a ceasefire in Gaza and stopping what he described as Israeli aggression in southern Lebanon, Mikati’s office said.
Blinken thanked Mikati for his leadership ‘in preventing Lebanon from being pulled into a war that the Lebanese people do not want’, the US State Department said.
He also discussed US efforts to secure humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza.
The United States has grave concerns that Iran-backed Hezbollah, which has stepped up rocket and cross-border attacks on northern Israel, will take a more active role in the Israel-Hamas war.
Blinken did not speak publicly as he posed for pictures with Qatar’s foreign minister, whose country has emerged as the most influential interlocutor with Hamas.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud (center) attends a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Antony Blinken is trying to build support for planning a post-conflict future for Gaza (Jonathan Ernst/pool photo via AP)
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) walks with UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini (left)
Qatar has been key to negotiating the limited release of hostages held by Hamas as well as persuading Hamas to allow foreign citizens to leave Gaza and cross into Egypt.
Blinken also met the head of the UN agency in charge of assisting Palestinian refugees, thanking Phillipe Lazzarini for his group’s ‘extraordinary work every single day as a lifeline to Palestinians in Gaza and a great, a great cost’.
The agency has seen about 70 staffers killed in the war so far and is running critically low on necessary supplies such as food, medicine and fuel.
Later, Blinken went into joint talks with the foreign ministers of Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the chair of the PLO executive committee.
All have denounced Israel’s tactics against Hamas, which they say constitute unlawful collective punishment of the Palestinian people.
While in Amman, Blinken planned to see Jordan’s King Abdullah II, whose country this week recalled its ambassador to Israel and told Israel’s envoy not to return to Jordan until the Gaza crisis was over.
Blinken will go to Turkey on Sunday for meetings with President Recep Tayyep Erdogan and top officials on Monday, the State Department said. Turkey on Saturday followed Jordan’s lead and announced it had recalled its ambassador to Israel because of the situation in Gaza.
Arab states have so far resisted American suggestions that they play a larger role in latest Middle East crisis, expressing outrage at the civilian toll of the Israeli military operations but believing Gaza to be a problem largely of Israel’s own making.
The group meeting Blinken was convened by Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman al-Safadi, who said the gathering was organised ‘in the context of their efforts aimed at stopping the Israeli war on Gaza and the humanitarian catastrophe it is causing’, according to the ministry.
Egyptian officials said there is consensus among Arab governments involved in discussions with the US to resist ‘any talks’ on the post-war period in Gaza before establishing a ceasefire and allowing the delivery of more humanitarian aid and fuel to Gaza.
They said Egypt, in co-ordination with Qatar, has proposed humanitarian pauses of fighting for six hours to 12 hours every day to permit aid deliveries, evacuations of seriously injured to Egypt and the entry of fuel. The United Nations would oversee the delivery of fuel to hospitals and other vital civilian infrastructure.
US officials believe Arab backing, no matter how modest, will be critical to efforts to ease the worsening conditions in Gaza and lay the groundwork for what would replace Hamas as the territory’s governing authority, if and when Israel succeeds in eradicating the group.
But ideas on Gaza’s future governance are few and far between.
Blinken and other US officials are offering a vague outline that it might include a combination of a revitalised Palestinian Authority, which has not been a factor in Gaza since 2007, with international organisations and potentially a peacekeeping force.
US officials acknowledge these ideas have been met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm.
About 100 trucks entered Gaza over the past two days and the current capacity is about 100 to 105 per day. The Israelis have indicated they are now willing to consider screening and allowing in as many trucks as can be handled efficiently, according to two officials travelling with Blinken.
Given the already exponential increase in southern Gaza’s population by roughly 800,000 to one million and the potential for many of the 300,000 to 400,000 still in the north to flee to the south, the needs are expected to grow to require as many as 500 to 600 trucks per day, said the officials.
Increasing to that capacity will also depend on the relative stability of the security situation on the ground, something unlikely to be achieved without humanitarian pauses, they said.
The officials said they believed the Israelis would come to understand the necessity of providing adequate assistance to Gaza’s growing southern population but were still grappling with what pauses might mean for the intense pressure they are applying against Hamas to get the group to release Israelis and others held hostage, the officials said.