Blinken Concludes Middle East Visit Amid Modest Backing for Gaza Ceasefires

by Gabriel Martinez
Blinken Middle East Diplomacy

Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, culminated a strenuous diplomatic circuit across the Middle East in Turkey on Monday, achieving only modest headway in his ambitious quest to broker regional unity on methods to alleviate civilian afflictions in Gaza amid escalating Israeli operations against Hamas.

In Ankara, Blinken conferred with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan after a whirlwind weekend journey spanning Israel, Jordan, the West Bank under occupation, Cyprus, and Iraq, in an attempt to amass support for the Biden administration’s advocacy of “humanitarian pauses” in Israel’s ongoing military campaign in Gaza.

During a period of heightened Israeli military presence encircling Gaza City and severing Gaza’s northern segments—territories governed by Hamas—Blinken’s vigorous peace-making efforts unfolded. Anticipation mounts for Israeli troops to commence urban engagement as early as Monday or Tuesday, potentially leading to intensified confrontations in the city’s dense street network and its subterranean tunnels. The one-month conflict has already led to the death of over 9,700 Palestinians.

The foremost American diplomat remains hopeful that wartime intermissions would facilitate an influx of humanitarian aid into Gaza and the liberation of hostages taken by Hamas in the lethal infiltration of southern Israel on October 7, which resulted in over 1,400 deaths, predominantly among civilians. Such pauses are also envisioned to prevent the regional escalation of the conflict.

Ahead of their formal discussions in Ankara, neither Blinken nor Fidan offered comments to the press. The visit did not include an engagement with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has openly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and has been a notable exception among NATO allies for not fully endorsing Israel’s defense prerogatives.

Protesters from an Islamist faction gathered outside the Foreign Ministry, waving Turkish and Palestinian flags, and brandishing signs critical of U.S. and Israeli policies as the diplomatic meeting commenced. Earlier on Monday, police thwarted a march by students protesting Blinken’s presence, denouncing him as an invader.

This marked the continuation of demonstrations against Blinken’s trip; on Sunday, Turkish riot police countered pro-Palestinian demonstrators at the U.S.-Turkish Incirlik military base in Adana with tear gas and water cannons. The day also saw protests at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, with crowds vocalizing religious chants.

Regrettably, Blinken’s second mission to the area since hostilities commenced has garnered lukewarm support at best for his initiatives aimed at mitigating the repercussions of the conflict. Israel has dismissed ceasefire proposals, while Arab and Muslim states have pressed for an immediate halt to hostilities as Palestinian civilian casualties mount under Israeli bombardment.

American officials continue to impress upon Israel the strategic value of adhering to the laws of war by shielding civilians and substantially increasing humanitarian provisions to the beleaguered populace in Gaza.

Yet, it is uncertain whether Netanyahu will consent to temporary halts in the extensive campaign to dismantle Hamas’s influence or if such measures could mollify the escalating indignation among Palestinians and their global advocates.

Jordan and Turkey have withdrawn their ambassadors from Israel in protest against Israeli military methods, while international sentiment appears to shift from initial sympathy post-October 7 to condemnation in light of the graphic devastation in Gaza.

In a display of solidarity with the Palestinian cause, the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan, alongside Blinken in Amman, publicly asserted that Israel’s military actions had transcended self-defense and were tantamount to collective punishment.

Global cities witnessed tens of thousands marching in solidarity with Palestine, decrying Israeli actions and the U.S.’s support thereof.

Following his engagements in Turkey, Blinken is set to venture to Asia, where discussions will inevitably touch upon the Gaza situation alongside other pressing global matters at meetings scheduled in Japan, South Korea, and India.

On his way to Turkey, Blinken engaged in dialogues in the West Bank with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, though these meetings concluded without public statements.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Blinken’s arrival prompted Palestinian protests. The Palestinian Authority, which governs areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has not had control over the Gaza Strip since Hamas’s takeover in 2007, and Abbas’s standing among Palestinians is tenuous.

Meanwhile, American troops in the region have faced escalated threats from Iranian-aligned militias, with U.S. forces intercepting an attack drone aimed at their base in Syria.

As Israel’s staunchest ally, the Biden administration persists in supporting Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks on October 7 while concurrently seeking to moderate the severe impact of the weeks-long siege and continuous assaults on Gaza, where 2.3 million civilians reside.

Arab nations are hesitant to endorse U.S. propositions for crisis resolution, expressing disdain over the human toll of Israeli military activities and considering the situation in Gaza predominantly an outcome of Israel’s own policies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Blinken Middle East Diplomacy

What was the objective of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s Middle East tour?

The objective of Blinken’s Middle East tour was to seek regional consensus on easing civilian suffering in Gaza and to promote the idea of “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Which countries did Antony Blinken visit during his Middle East tour?

Antony Blinken’s Middle East tour included visits to Israel, Jordan, the occupied West Bank, Cyprus, Iraq, and Turkey.

What are the proposed “humanitarian pauses” that Blinken advocated for?

The “humanitarian pauses” advocated by Blinken are temporary halts in military action to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza and the release of hostages captured by Hamas.

How did the Israeli government respond to Blinken’s proposal for pauses in the Gaza fighting?

The Israeli government rejected the idea of pauses, while Arab and Muslim nations demanded an immediate cease-fire due to the rising Palestinian civilian casualties.

What was the reaction in Turkey to Antony Blinken’s visit?

Blinken’s visit to Turkey was met with protests. Demonstrators criticized U.S. and Israeli policies, with police dispersing protestors and using tear gas and water cannons in some instances.

Has the international opinion shifted regarding the Israel-Gaza conflict?

Yes, international opinion appears to be turning from initial sympathy for Israel following the events of October 7 to revulsion as images of the destruction in Gaza circulate globally.

What was the stance of Arab states regarding the Gaza conflict and U.S. involvement?

Arab states have resisted American suggestions for resolving the crisis, expressing outrage at the civilian toll of the Israeli military operations and viewing Gaza as a problem largely of Israel’s making.

More about Blinken Middle East Diplomacy

  • Blinken’s Mideast Diplomatic Efforts
  • Gaza Conflict Escalation
  • Protests Against Blinken in Turkey
  • International Response to Gaza Crisis
  • U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East

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SarahK November 6, 2023 - 2:49 pm

I heard about the protests in Turkey, seems like Blinken’s not getting much love there, wonder if the US is gonna rethink their strategy

JaneDoe November 6, 2023 - 3:50 pm

diplomacy takes time but time is something that the people in Gaza don’t have with bombs falling every day… need more than just talk

MikeJohnson November 6, 2023 - 4:32 pm

so Blinken is on tour but what’s actually getting done? we see all these meetings but the fighting just keeps going, does anyone have a real plan?

Tommy86 November 6, 2023 - 11:48 pm

its a complicated situation but surely there’s more that can be done to help the civilians caught in the middle of this conflict

RealistRay November 7, 2023 - 1:40 am

everytime I read about the Middle East its always some new conflict or another, makes you wonder if there will ever be peace there


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