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Blinken wraps up Mideast tour to shore up Gaza truce

By AFP - May 27,2021 - Last updated at May 27,2021

AMMAN — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Wednesday wrapped up a Mideast tour to bolster an Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza, calling for regional cooperation to avoid more "harrowing violence".

Blinken met with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders during the two days of talks, throwing Washington's support behind the truce that ended 11 days of heavy Israeli bombing of Gaza and rocket fire from the impoverished coastal enclave into Israel.

Following talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Blinken vowed to rebuild US relations with the Palestinians by reopening a consulate in Jerusalem, as well as give millions in aid for the war-battered Gaza Strip.

The announcements signalled a break with US policy under former president Donald Trump, who had shuttered the diplomatic mission for Palestinians in 2019 and slashed aid to the Palestinian Authority.

In the long term, Blinken invoked the “possibility of resuming the effort to achieve a two-state solution, which we continue to believe is the only way to truly assure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, and of course to give the Palestinians the state they’re entitled to”.

After meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blinken reiterated support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, adding that they must not benefit from reconstruction aid.

‘Help and support’ 

The “most urgent thing is humanitarian assistance for the people in Gaza”, Blinken said on Wednesday, listing water, sanitation and electricity as immediate needs, ahead of support for longer-term reconstruction.

Qatar announced $500 million for the reconstruction effort, matching the amount pledged by Cairo last week for the devastated Palestinian enclave.

Hamas political chief Yahya Sinwar vowed on Wednesday not to take “a single cent” of the aid, insisting that “we have never taken a cent in the past”.

Blinken also met Wednesday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi in Cairo, whom he praised for helping bring an end to the intense violence “relatively quickly”, before he headed to Jordan.

“Our meetings today in Cairo and Amman — indeed, this whole trip — reflect a fundamental reality,” Blinken said. “If we want to avoid a return to the harrowing violence of recent weeks, the countries of this region are going to have to help and support one another.”

Blinken said the US was in the process of providing more than $360 million in assistance to Palestinians, including $250 million announced in March and April.

On top of that, he said the administration intended to provide $75 million in aid to the Palestinians, as well as $5.5 million in immediate disaster assistance for Gaza, and nearly $33 million for an emergency humanitarian appeal by the UN.

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