Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Blinken meets Egypt’s Sisi, heads to Jordan to shore up Gaza truce

Photo by EPA-EFE/Egyptian Presidency

CAIRO – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken headed to Jordan Wednesday on the last leg of a Mideast tour that aims to shore up an Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

After meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi — whom he praised for helping bring an end to the intense violence “relatively quickly” — he departed for Jordan for talks with King Abdullah II.

The US top diplomat already met Tuesday with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, to throw Washington s support behind the truce that ended 11 days of heavy Israeli bombing of Gaza and rocket fire from the enclave into Israel.

After talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at his headquarters in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Blinken vowed to rebuild US relations with the Palestinians by reopening a consulate in Jerusalem, as well as giving 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 evoked 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 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he reiterated support for Israel s right to defend itself against rocket attacks by Gaza s Hamas rulers, adding that they must not benefit from the reconstruction aid.

Rebuilding Gaza 

On Wednesday, he met with Sisi, with Blinken later saying both “believe strongly that Palestinians and Israelis deserve equally to live in safety and security”, and that “Egypt is vital to these aspirations”.

Unlike the United States and many European governments, which boycott Gaza s ruling Hamas movement as a terror group, Egypt maintains regular contacts.

Egypt was also the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, with Jordan following suit in 1994.

Cairo has sent delegations to both Tel Aviv and Gaza to watch over the implementation of the ceasefire, and has also been coordinating international relief and reconstruction aid for the Palestinian territory, which has been under Israeli blockade for nearly 15 years.

Blinken said Wednesday the United Sates was in the process of providing more than $360 million in assistance to the Palestinian people, including $250 million announced in March and April.

On top of that, the administration intended to provide $75 million in additional 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 agency for Palestinian refugees.

“All of these funds will be administered in a way that benefits the Palestinian people — not Hamas, which has only brought misery and despair to Gaza,” Blinken said.

Last week, Sisi pledged $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in Gaza.

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