Blinken calls on Israel to build its ties with Arab countries

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said Tuesday that Israel had “real opportunities” to strengthen ties with Arab nations, as he sought to calm regional violence arising from the Israel-Hamas war and encourage Israel to alleviate Palestinian suffering in order to improve relations with its West Asian neighbours.
Blinken’s comments, in meetings with Israeli officials on Tuesday in Tel Aviv, were a reference to his earlier assertion that Saudi Arabia and other countries remained interested in eventually building normal diplomatic relations with Israel despite the destruction in Gaza and fears of a wider regional conflict.But Arab leaders insist Israel must end the Gaza war and work toward a Palestinian state, Blinken has said.
“I look forward to sharing with you some of what I’ve heard from countries around the region,” Blinken said in public remarks to Israel Katz, the foreign minister, before the start of their meeting on Tuesday morning. “I know your own efforts, over many years, to build much better connectivity and integration in the Middle East, and I think there actually are real opportunities there.” Blinken later met with PM Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli war cabinet in the Kirya, a military base that houses the defence ministry headquarters.
Before flying to Israel on Monday night, Blinken told reporters in the desert oasis town of Al Ula in Saudi Arabia that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had said to him in a meeting there that the Saudis still had “a clear interest” in trying to normalise diplomatic relations with Israel. But there were at least two conditions for that, Blinken said: an end to Israel’s military offensive in Gaza; and Israel agreeing to take practical steps toward establishing a Palestinian state. Blinken has visited Turkiye, Greece, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia since Friday.
Before Oct. 7 attacks, the Biden administration had been trying to arrange a long-shot agreement among the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel. It would lead to Saudi Arabia establishing normal ties with Israel in exchange for a US-Saudi mutual defence treaty, US cooperation on a Saudi civil nuclear programme and approval of more arms sales from the US. In those earlier talks, MbS was not insistent on a Palestinian state or a concrete pathway to establish one, US officials said.
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