Blinken Urges Middle East Nations to Halt ‘Endless Cycle of Violence’ Through Diplomatic Influence

Late on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed the need for Middle Eastern nations to leverage their influence over regional actors. The goal is to contain the Gaza conflict and prevent an ongoing cycle of violence. Blinken’s comments followed his meetings with the leaders of Turkey and Greece at the beginning of a week-long trip, with the primary objective of easing tensions that have escalated since Israel’s conflict with Hamas began in October.

Interest of All Citizens!

Blinken emphasized to reporters that containing the fighting is in the interests of virtually all nations in the Middle East.

“We aim to ensure that nations sharing such concerns are actively utilizing their connections, influence, and relationships with relevant actors to maintain stability. Our goal is to prevent the escalation of conflict and its wider ramifications,” Blinken expressed before heading to Jordan.

Over the weekend, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, backed by Iran, claimed to have launched rockets at Israel, prompting retaliation from their arch-foe. Blinken stressed the significance of Israel’s security in the northern region.

“From Israel’s standpoint, there is a clear reluctance and lack of interest in escalation, but they must also be adequately prepared to defend themselves,” he remarked. 

Blinken, scheduled to visit Arab states, Israel, and the West Bank, expressed concerns that if efforts to resolve the crisis fall short, it would lead to “an endless cycle of violence, jeopardizing the lives of people in the region.”

He emphasized the need to explore ways to enhance the protection of civilians in Gaza and increase the delivery of humanitarian aid, stating, “Far too many Palestinians, especially children, have lost their lives.”

The conflict initiated when Hamas fighters attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in 1,200 casualties and 240 hostages. In response, Israel’s retaliatory offensive has reportedly led to the deaths of 22,700 Palestinians, according to Palestinian officials. The repercussions of the war have extended into the West Bank, Lebanon, and Red Sea shipping lanes.

Before his visit, Blinken met with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, a vocal critic of Israel’s military actions in Gaza.

Blinken and Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan had previously engaged in discussions concerning Gaza and Turkey’s ongoing process to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership, as reported by Turkey’s foreign ministry.

U.S. officials have expressed frustration regarding the prolonged duration of the process. However, a senior State Department official, accompanying Blinken, conveyed confidence that Ankara would soon endorse Sweden’s accession, especially after receiving support from the Turkish parliament last month. The official shared this information on the condition of anonymity.

The approval of the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey by U.S. lawmakers is currently on hold until Turkey gives its consent to Swedish membership.

Blinken’s Visit to Greece

Later, Blinken visited Crete and met with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Greece, a fellow NATO member, is currently awaiting U.S. Congress approval for the sale of F-35 fighter jets.

During the meeting, Blinken highlighted the significance of the strong alliance between Greece and Washington. Mitsotakis emphasized the potential collaboration between the two countries in enhancing security in the tumultuous region.

Greece, condemning the October 7 Hamas attack, supports Cyprus’ initiative for a maritime corridor to facilitate more aid delivery to the enclave. Leveraging its historical ties with the Arab world, Greece believes it can actively contribute to this effort.

The U.S. official mentioned Turkey’s diverse relationships in the conflict, alluding to its connections with U.S. adversaries Iran and Hamas. Notably, Turkey doesn’t categorize Hamas as a terrorist group and hosts some of its members.

Blinken aims to advance discussions on Gaza’s governance post the potential eradication of Hamas by Israel. Washington envisions regional countries, including Turkey, playing roles in Gaza’s reconstruction, governance, and possibly security.

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