Biden sends Blinken to Middle East amid Gaza ceasefire

Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he departs, Monday, May 24, 2021, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Blinken is en route to the Middle East. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool) [May-24-2021]

(Alex Brandon, AP Photo, Pool)


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WASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will leave for the Middle East on Monday to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials, among other regional leaders, as the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas appeared to hold for the fourth straight day.

Blinken will travel to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Cairo and Amman through Thursday and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Jordan's King Abdullah, the State Department said.

U.S. President Joe Biden, in announcing the visit, said he had asked the top U.S. diplomat to make the trip following diplomatic efforts that sought to pause the worst outbreak in fighting between Israel and Hamas in years.

"Blinken will meet with Israeli leaders about our ironclad commitment to Israel's security. He will continue our administration's efforts to rebuild ties to, and support for, the Palestinian people and leaders after years of neglect," Biden said in a statement released by the White House.

Blinken will also discuss "international effort to ensure immediate assistance reaches Gaza in a way that benefits the people there and not Hamas, and on reducing the risk of further conflict in the coming months," Biden added.

Gaza is ruled by Hamas. Israel has blockaded Gaza since 2007, saying this prevents Hamas bringing in arms.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, editing by Ed Osmond and Nick Macfie)

© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021

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