US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to make his third trip to the Middle East this week, aiming to facilitate an extension of the cease-fire in Gaza and work towards the release of more hostages. Following his participation in Ukraine-focused meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday in Brussels and Skopje, North Macedonia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will journey to Israel and the West Bank. This comes as foreign ministers from NATO and the Organisation for Peace and Security in Europe convene in North Macedonia.
Israel has agreed to halt its military operations in exchange for the gradual release of hostages taken by Hamas during its attacks on Israel in October. The initial agreement was set to expire on Monday but has been extended for an additional two days.
The United States, represented by White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, expresses the hope for further extension, contingent on Hamas continuing to release hostages. As Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Israel and the West Bank, discussions will focus on Israel’s right to self-defence in line with international humanitarian law, ongoing efforts to secure the release of remaining hostages, protection of civilian life during Israel’s operations in Gaza, and the acceleration of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.
After visiting Israel and the West Bank, Blinken is set to journey to the United Arab Emirates for talks with regional leaders attending the COP28 climate summit in Dubai. Engaged in intense diplomacy, Blinken aims to prevent the escalation of the Gaza conflict, increase humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians, facilitate the release of hostages, and coordinate the safe overland exit of foreigners and dual nationals from Gaza to Egypt.