After Cease-fire, Blinken to Visit Mideast Next Week
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel, the West Bank, Egypt and Jordan next week, to “meet with Israeli, Palestinian and regional counterparts… to discuss recovery efforts and working together to build better futures Israelis and Palestinians,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday.
Blinken’s tour, his first since taking office, was announced following a phone call Thursday afternoon in the United States between the secretary and his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, in which the latter confirmed Jerusalem had agreed to a cease-fire with Hamas, beginning Friday at 2 am.
The foreign minister said he would welcome Blinken in Israel “warmly” and that he looks forward to continuing discussions “on advancing regional strategic issues for maintaining Israel’s security and regional stability.”
Also on Thursday afternoon, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz. Austin “welcomed the Israeli Cabinet’s decision to agree to a ceasefire, and shared Minister Gantz’s hope that there will be a complete restoration of calm,” according to a readout from the Pentagon.
Austin and Gantz “agreed on the importance of Israel having the capabilities it needs to defend itself from rocket and missile attacks,” the readout said.
Following twelve days of fighting, Israel and Hamas have so far both held their fire in the hours since the Egyptian-brokered truce came into effect last night.