US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to visit Israel, West Bank this week

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel, the West Bank, Belgium, North Macedonia and UAE this week. It is Blinken’s third visit to Israel since Hamas launched an attack on southern Israel on October 7. During his visit to Israel and the West Bank, Blinken will discuss Israel’s right to defend itself in accordance with international humanitarian law, continued efforts to secure the release of remaining hostages and protecting civilian life during Israel’s counter-offensive against Hamas in Gaza. He will also discuss the principles he outlined in Tokyo on November 8, the US Department of State announced in a statement.

According to a statement released by the US Department of State, Blinken stated, “In Israel and the West Bank, Secretary Blinken will discuss Israel’s right to defend itself consistent with international humanitarian law, as well as continued efforts to secure the release of remaining hostages, protect civilian life during Israel’s operations in Gaza, and accelerate humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza. “The Secretary will also discuss the principles he outlined in Tokyo on November 8, tangible steps to further the creation of a future Palestinian state, and the need to prevent the conflict from widening,” it added.

On Monday, Blinken expressed happiness over the release of hostages from Gaza, including a young American girl. He stated that the US will continue to make efforts until all hostages are released. Taking to X, he stated, “Good to see more hostages released today — including a young American girl who turned four just days ago. Our efforts will continue until all hostages are set free.” Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden on Monday welcomed the additional two-day truce between Israel and Hamas. He thanked Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani for their commitment to this process and in reaching the agreement.

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In a statement, Biden stated, “I have remained deeply engaged over the last few days to ensure that this deal–brokered and sustained through extensive US mediation and diplomacy–can continue to deliver results. Thus far, more than 50 hostages have now been released and returned to their families.” He said, “The humanitarian pause has also enabled a significant surge in additional humanitarian assistance to the innocent civilians who are suffering across the Gaza strip.” He noted that the humanitarian pause has enabled a significant surge in additional humanitarian assistance to civilians who are suffering across the Gaza strip.

“The United States has led the humanitarian response into Gaza–building on years of work as the largest funder of humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people. We are taking full advantage of the pause in fighting to increase the amount of humanitarian aid moving into Gaza, and we will continue our efforts to build a future of peace and dignity for the Palestinian people,” he added. Apart from visiting the West Bank and Israel, Blinken will travel to Belgium to attend the NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting, including the first foreign ministers meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council, according to a US Department of State statement.

He will highlight NATO’s steadfast commitment to Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s aggression, emphasise US support for democracy and regional stability in the Western Balkans, and discuss priorities for the Washington Summit in July 2024. During his visit to North Macedonia, Antony Blinken will engage with OSCE counterparts, reaffirming the US’ steadfast commitment to the OSCE and its core mission of promoting security, stability, and cooperation among states, with a particular emphasis on human rights and peaceful resolution of disputes. He will also highlight the pivotal role played by the OSCE in advancing comprehensive security across the region.

Blinken will also travel to Dubai to attend the UN Climate Conference, COP28, where he will engage leaders on the need to continue global action to address the climate crisis. He will also meet with counterparts and discuss regional issues, including the conflict between Israel and Hamas.