AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State He stepped up his frenetic diplomacy on Saturday, trying to rally support for planning a post-conflict future for Gaza as he continued his second urgent mission to the Middle East since the conflict between Israel and Hamas began.
A day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deliberately flouted Blinken’s blunt warning that Israel risks losing any hope of an eventual peace deal with the Palestinians unless it eases the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, met in Amman with senior Jordanian and other Arab officials, who remain angry and deeply distrustful of Israel as it escalates its war against Hamas.
Blinken met for the first time with Lebanon’s interim prime minister whose economically and politically devastated country is home to Hezbollah, a force hostile to Israel backed by Iran.
The United States is seriously concerned that Hezbollah, which has already stepped up cross-border and rocket attacks on northern Israel, will take a more active role in the conflict.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah gave his first major speech since the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7 that sparked the war, but did not predict further participation by his group despite professing that he was unfazed by the attempts. of the United States to dissuade him.
Blinken thanked Mikati for his leadership “in preventing Lebanon from being dragged into a war that the Lebanese people do not want,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said. Blinken also discussed U.S. efforts to secure humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza, Miller said.
Neither Blinken nor Mikati spoke to reporters at the end of their meeting at an Amman hotel. Blinken also did not speak publicly while posing for photographs with the foreign minister of Qatar, whose country has become the most influential interlocutor with Hamas and has been key in negotiating the limited release of hostages held by the group, as well as convincing it. to allow foreign citizens to leave Gaza and cross into Egypt.
Blinken would then meet with the head of the United Nations agency tasked with helping Palestinian refugees. UNRWA has said dozens of its staff have been killed in Israeli airstrikes and it is critically running out of necessary supplies such as food, medicine and fuel.
Blinken would later hold group talks with the foreign ministers of Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the chairman of the PLO executive committee. All sides have denounced Israel’s tactics against Hamas, which they say constitute illegal collective punishment of the Palestinian people.
Blinken will also see King Abdullah II of Jordan, whose country this week recalled its ambassador to Israel and told him not to return to the country until the Gaza crisis was over.
Still, Arab states have so far resisted American suggestions that they play a larger role in the crisis, expressing outrage at the civilian cost of Israeli military operations but believing that Gaza is a problem largely caused by Israel itself.
The Arabs’ meeting with Blinken was called by Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi, who said the meeting was organized “in the context of their efforts aimed at stopping the Israeli war against Gaza and the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe.” causing,” the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. .
Still, U.S. officials believe that Arab support – no matter how modest – will be critical to efforts not only to alleviate worsening conditions in Gaza but also to lay the foundation for what would replace Hamas as the country’s ruling authority. territory, as long as Israel manages to eradicate it.
However, ideas about the future governance of Gaza are few and far between, with Blinken and other US officials offering a vague outline that it could include some combination of a revitalized Palestinian Authority (which has not been a factor in the territory since 2007) , international organizations and potentially a peacekeeping force. U.S. officials acknowledge that these ideas have been met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm.