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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Blinken on tour in the Middle East

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will travel to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank this weekend, the State Department announced.

The visit takes place against a backdrop of escalating violence following the worst Israeli operation in the West Bank in twenty years, which alarmed Washington.

Blinken’s visit to Israel had been planned for weeks, but Israel’s operation in the West Bank refugee camp on Thursday is expected to feature prominently in his talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Palestinians say nine people were killed in the operation, including a 61-year-old woman. On the same day, the Israeli army also fatally injured a 22-year-old Palestinian.

The top US diplomat for the Middle East said the administration called on both sides to defuse tensions after the operation and denounced the Palestinians’ announcement that they would end all security cooperation with Israel.

Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf said that after the incident, US officials contacted senior Israeli and Palestinian officials to stress the importance of defusing tensions.

Reports of civilian casualties at the Jenin camp are “very regrettable”, she said.

At the same time, she said the Palestinians’ announcement to suspend all security cooperation with Israel was a mistake, as was the Palestinians’ promise to refer the case to the UN and the International Criminal Court.

“Of course, we don’t think it’s the right decision at this time,” Leaf said on a conference call with reporters. We want them to move in a different direction. We don’t think it makes sense to move to international platforms now. They need to interact with each other.”

On Sunday, Blinken will meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo, after which he will spend Monday and Tuesday in Jerusalem and Ramallah, where he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the Department of ‘state told me.

It will be the second visit by a senior Biden administration official to Israel this year, with national security adviser Jake Sullivan visiting the country last week.

“During conversations with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the Secretary of State will underscore the urgent need for measures to de-escalate tensions to end a cycle of violence that has claimed the lives of too many innocent people,” the Secretary of State said. State Department spokesman Ned Price.

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