The top US diplomat is travelling across the Middle East amid growing calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II has urged US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to push for a ceasefire in Gaza and bring an end to the humanitarian crisis in the besieged Palestinian territory, as the months-long war continues to rage.
The king met Blinken in the Jordanian capital Amman on Sunday and warned him of the “catastrophic repercussions” of the continuation of the war which began three months ago, the royal palace said.
At least 22,835 people have been killed – including 9,600 children – in Israel’s assault on Gaza since October 7, according to Palestinian officials. At least 1,139 people were killed in Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, according to Israeli authorities.
The king reiterated “the important role of the United States in bringing pressure for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, protection of civilians, and guaranteeing delivery” of medical and humanitarian aid, the royal palace said.
Blinken, who kicked off a weeklong trip across the Middle East on Friday, aimed at calming tensions in the region and ensuring the war does not spread, arrived in Jordan from Turkey and Greece, where he noted that there was “real concern” over the Israel-Lebanon border.
“We want to do everything possible to make sure that we don’t see escalation there” and to avoid an “endless cycle of violence”, he said.
Today in Amman, I met with His Majesty King Abdullah II to discuss efforts to protect civilians in Gaza and the West Bank. I thanked him for his leadership in providing humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza. The conflict must not spread further in the region. pic.twitter.com/ya5FvABxjJ
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) January 7, 2024
After visiting Jordan, Blinken will travel to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and the occupied West Bank, where he will deliver a message that Washington does not want a regional escalation of the Gaza conflict.
The top US diplomat also hopes to make progress in talks about how Gaza could be governed after the war.
Earlier on Sunday Blinken met Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, who discussed a future scenario that would bring the West Bank and Gaza together as the basis of a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, according to a statement from Jordan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates.
Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and King Abdullah reaffirmed the need for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian question and underlined Jordan’s “total rejection” of any forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
Washington also insists on a two-state solution, something rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, some of whose cabinet members have also called for Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza to leave.
A senior US State Department official travelling with the top diplomat told Reuters that Blinken will continue pressing hesitant Muslim nations to prepare to play a role in the reconstruction, governance and security of Gaza.
The US delegation aims to gather Arab states’ views on the future of Gaza before taking those positions to Israel, the official said, acknowledging there would be a significant gap between the different parties’ positions.
After his meeting with Jordanian officials, Blinken visited the World Food Programme’s regional coordination warehouse near the Jordanian capital and highlighted that “it is imperative” to “maximise assistance to people in need”, by getting the aid in and distributing it effectively.
Inside the warehouse, stocked with pallets of canned food aid, the senior UN official in Jordan, Sheri Ritsema-Anderson, described the situation in Gaza as unlike anything she had seen during 15 years in the Middle East.
It is “catastrophic”, she told reporters.
Blinken said the US was working to keep aid routes into the strip open and multiply them.
“We are intensely focused on the very difficult and indeed deteriorating food situation for men, women and children in Gaza, and it’s something we’re working on 24/7.”
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