Blinken to start fifth ME tour on Sunday

The visit will focus on a deal with the Palestinian Resistance regarding a ceasefire in turn for the release of Israeli captives.

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a meeting with UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza, Sigrid Kaag, not pictured, at the State Department, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, in Washington. (AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will initiate his fifth trip to the Middle East on Sunday, visiting Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and Occupied Palestine and the West Bank.

In a statement, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said, “The Secretary will continue diplomatic efforts to reach an agreement that secures the release of all remaining hostages, and includes a humanitarian pause that will allow for sustained, increased delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.”

“He will continue to work to prevent the spread of the conflict while reaffirming that the United States will take appropriate steps to defend its personnel and the right to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea,” he added.

Miller also revealed that Blinken will proceed with discussions on how to establish a “more integrated, peaceful region that includes lasting security for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Israeli media outlets announced that Blinken’s talks in occupied Palestine will shed light on a possible deal for a cease-fire and the captives’ swap with Hamas.

“Israel’s” Haaretz reported earlier this week that a proposal includes the release of 35 Israeli captives in return for a six-week cease-fire in Gaza and the release of thousands of Palestinian detainees.

On Monday, Blinken warned during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that it is an “incredibly volatile time in the Middle East,” showing concern about the situation in the Red Sea.

“I would argue that we’ve not seen a situation as dangerous as the one we’re facing now across the region since at least 1973, and arguably even before that,” he added.

Biden administration is desperate for a cease-fire before US elections

Two US officials informed Axios that earlier in January, President Biden pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “scale down the Israeli military operation in Gaza”, stressing he “is not in it for a year of war.”

Last Friday, Biden held a call with Netanyahu and urged Netanyahu to end the war before the November elections, reflecting growing US concern about the continuation of the war.

This was prompted by the White House’s concern about losing young voters, many of whom are pro-Palestine, a Biden adviser told Axios.

Another close source to the White House stated that Biden would not be able to control the news cycle as the election nears with the ongoing Israeli war against Gaza and perpetually increasing death toll. However, both the White House and Netanyahu declined to comment.

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