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Blinken to visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt to discuss Gaza ceasefire — spokesman

By AFP - Mar 20,2024 - Last updated at Mar 20,2024

MANILA — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Saudi Arabia and Egypt this week to discuss efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza and increase humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory, a State Department spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Blinken will hold talks with Saudi leaders in Jeddah on Wednesday before travelling to Cairo on Thursday for talks with Egyptian authorities, spokesman Matthew Miller said from the Philippines, where Blinken is touring.

This will be Blinken's sixth trip to the Middle East since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas on October 7.

"The secretary will discuss efforts to reach an immediate ceasefire agreement that secures the release of all remaining hostages, intensified international efforts to increase humanitarian assistance to Gaza, and coordination on post-conflict planning for Gaza, including ensuring Hamas can no longer govern nor repeat the attacks of October 7," Miller said in a statement.

Blinken will also discuss "a political path for the Palestinian people with security assurances with Israel, and an architecture for lasting peace and security in the region".

And he will raise the imperative issue of ending attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on commercial ships, to restore stability and security in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, Miller added.

Blinken is in Manila as part of a brief Asia tour aimed at reinforcing US support for regional allies against China.

The announcement comes a day after Israel’s Mossad spy chief, David Barnea, was to meet with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Egyptian officials in Doha, a source close to the talks said.

The meeting follows the latest proposal from Hamas for a six-week truce, vastly more aid into Gaza and the initial release of about 42 hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

During the proposed truce, Israeli forces would withdraw from “all cities and populated areas” in Gaza, according to a Hamas official.

The war began when Hamas launched an unprecedented attack from Gaza on October 7.

Israel has carried out a relentless bombing campaign and ground offensive that Gaza’s health ministry says has killed at least 31,726 people, most of them women and children.

The United Nations has warned for weeks that a famine is looming in Gaza, with aid agencies reporting huge difficulties gaining access to the territory, particularly the north.

Donors have turned to deliveries by air or sea, but these are not viable alternatives to land deliveries, UN agencies say.

 

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