Blinken Heads to Egypt, Jordan on First Middle East Tour

A day after expressing support for Israel’s security and announcing reconstruction aid for Gaza, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels Wednesday to Egypt, which was heavily involved in achieving a cease-fire in last week’s conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. Blinken began Wednesday by meeting with Israeli President Reuben Rivlin, closing the first leg of his first trip to the Middle East since becoming the top U.S. diplomat.   In Cairo, Blinken is meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry before traveling on to Jordan to close the day. “As you know, Egypt played a critical role in helping to broker the cease-fire, and Jordan has long been a voice for peace and stability in the region,” Blinken told reporters Tuesday. After talks Tuesday in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Blinken said he will ask the U.S. Congress for $75 million in assistance for Palestinians in Gaza.Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, May 25, 2021, in West Bank city of Ramallah.”We know that the last round of violence is symptomatic of a larger set of issues that we have to address if we’re going to prevent its recurrence, and that’s what we talked about today,” Blinken said. “We welcome the cease-fire that continues to hold, but that’s not enough. We have to build on the cease-fire and try to move things in a genuinely positive direction.”   Blinken also reiterated Tuesday that the Biden administration’s belief that a two-state solution “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 that they’re entitled to.”  The top U.S. diplomat said the United States would reopen its consulate in Jerusalem after the Trump administration closed it in 2019 and provide $5.5 million in immediate disaster assistance and more than $32 million for a United Nations emergency humanitarian relief campaign.   Blinken said the consulate’s reopening is “an important way for our country to engage with and provide support to the Palestinian people.”   Of the U.S.-designated terror group that controls Gaza, Blinken said, “We will work to ensure that Hamas doesn’t benefit from these reconstruction efforts.”   Earlier in the day, the secretary of state underscored Israel’s right to defend itself as he visited Jerusalem as part of an effort to build on a cease-fire.   Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blinken said that both Israel and the Palestinians experienced “profound” losses during the fighting, and that there is a lot of work ahead to restore hope, respect and trust.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken shake hands during a joint press conference in Jerusalem on May 25, 2021.”Casualties are often reduced to numbers, but behind every number is an individual human being — a daughter, a son, a father, a mother, a grandparent, a best friend,” Blinken said. “And as the Talmud teaches, to lose a life is to lose the whole world, whether that life is Palestinian or Israeli.”   Blinken also pledged help to expand economic opportunities for Palestinians both in Gaza and in the West Bank, saying that doing so would provide for a more stable environment that will benefit both Palestinians and Israelis.   Netanyahu thanked the United States for its show of support, while warning the militants to maintain the cease-fire.   “If Hamas breaks the calm and attacks Israel, our response will be very powerful,” he said. 

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