Cairo, Jan 11 (EFE).- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday concluded a tour of the Middle East in which, following meetings with Arab leaders, he toughened his discourse against Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip and stated that the path to resolving the conflict is the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
The top US diplomat visited Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain, Egypt and the occupied West Bank, to outline an action plan to curb the war and its repercussions.
On this fourth regional tour since the start of the war on Oct. 7, Blinken changed his tone regarding the Israeli offensive, stressing “the importance of preventing further harm to civilians and protecting civilian infrastructure in Gaza” while recalling Israel’s “right to prevent the terrorist attacks of Oct. 7 from being repeated.”
Blinken also talked at length about the danger of the war spreading, with the escalation of violence between Israel and the Lebanese group Hezbollah on the shared border, the bombings in Beirut, and the Yemeni Houthi attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea.
Toward an independent Palestinian state
Blinken told Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he is counting on his support for the creation of an independent Palestinian state under the two-state solution “alongside Israel” so that both can “live in peace and security.”
The US and part of the international community advocate the return of the PA, which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, to the Gaza Strip at the end of the war.
The aim is to prevent the return of Hamas – which has de facto ruled the strip since 2007 – and other extremist groups, as well as colonization by Israel, which dismantled its last settlements inside the enclave in 2005.
No to the “transfer” of Palestinians
The top US diplomat also bluntly told Israeli leaders that “Palestinian civilians must be able to return home as soon as conditions allow. They must not be pressed to leave Gaza.”
The total number of internally displaced persons in Gaza is close to two million, at least 85% of the strip’s total population of 2.3 million. A large portion of them, about one million, are in Rafah, the southernmost town in the Palestinian coastal enclave.
Blinken even said in Israel that the US “unequivocally rejects any proposals advocating for the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza,” an idea put forward by several ministers in Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-right-wing government.
Preventing the spread of war
The crossfire between Hezbollah and Israel on the border, Israeli attacks on Syria, and the Houthi offensive against ships linked to the Jewish state in the Red Sea have already expanded the war beyond Gaza’s borders.
Blinken did not mention the recent assassination of a Hamas leader on the outskirts of Beirut, blamed on Israel, which raised fears of an escalation of the conflict.
But preventing further escalation was one of the goals of this tour by the diplomat, who has accused Iran of using its allies to fuel the conflict and on Wednesday called on Iran to stop supporting the Houthis. EFE