Offering Palestinians a path to statehood can stabilise the Middle East and isolate Iran, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said as he wrapped his latest visit to the region amid Israel’s continuing war on Gaza.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday after meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the US top diplomat said the region faced two paths, the first of which would see “Israel integrated, with security assurances and commitments from regional countries and as well from the United States, and a Palestinian state – at least a pathway to get to that state”.
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“The other path is to continue to see the terrorism, the nihilism, the destruction by Hamas, by the Houthis, by Hezbollah, all backed by Iran,” he said.
“If you pursue the first path … that’s the single best way to isolate, to marginalise Iran and the proxies that are making so much trouble – for us and for pretty much everyone else in the region.”
Blinken’s visit came a day after Egypt and Jordan warned that Israel’s military campaign, which has killed more than 23,000 people in Gaza according to the Health Ministry in the Palestinian territory, must not displace the strip’s 2.3 million people or end in an Israeli occupation.
Troubles in the region
Blinken’s comments came after he visited several allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey in an effort to prevent the Gaza war setting off a regional conflagration.
Israel’s northern border with Lebanon has seen almost daily exchanges of fire between the Iran-backed armed group Hezbollah and Israeli forces for the past three months.
While the artillery exchanges have largely remained confined to areas along the border, the killing last week of a senior Hamas leader in Beirut and of several Hezbollah members have raised the prospect of a broader escalation.
On a different front, the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen continue to conduct attacks on vessels in the Red Sea threatening global commerce despite the US and Western allies threatening actions against the group if it continues its assaults. On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution demanding the Houthis to “immediately cease all attacks”.
US forces in Iraq and Syria have also faced a surge in attacks since the start of the war. Last week, the Iraqi government accused the US of carrying out a drone attack targeting an Iran-aligned paramilitary group in the capital Baghdad that killed and wounded several people.
In his Middle Eastern tour, Blinken urged Arab countries to “keep a lid on things” to avoid a spread of the conflict.
In the past few days, the US top diplomat also insisted on the necessity for Israel to reduce civilian casualties as images of the devastation caused by its bombardment of Gaza have triggered condemnation worldwide. On Thursday, South Africa brought Israel to the bench of the International Court of Justice on genocide charges.
Before travelling to Cairo, Blinken met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, where he reiterated the US’s support for Palestinian statehood and called for the PA to govern Gaza once the war is over. Such a scenario has not been endorsed by the Israeli political leadership which has failed so far to share plans for governance of Gaza after the war.