Secretary Blinken Concludes Mideast Tour Amid Modest Support for Gaza Ceasefire Efforts

by Chloe Baker
Blinken Middle East diplomacy

Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, concluded an exhaustive diplomatic mission in the Middle East with limited headway in securing a unified approach to alleviate civilian strife in Gaza amid escalating Israeli offensives against Hamas.

Secretary Blinken’s last stop was in Turkey, where he conferred with Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan after a whirlwind series of visits including Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, Cyprus, and Iraq, aimed at garnering support for the U.S.-advocated “humanitarian pauses” in the aggressive Israeli actions in Gaza.

Blinken, before his departure from Turkey, remarked, “We are navigating through an evolving situation. Our perspectives are not aligned on every issue, yet there is consensus on certain critical immediate needs which we are collaboratively addressing.”

During the conflict, which has Israeli forces poised at the brink of a ground incursion into Gaza City and severing the northern sector from the rest of the Hamas-governed enclave, Blinken’s diplomacy was a race against time. With troops anticipated to enter the urban landscape and engage with militants entrenched in extensive tunnel networks, the conflict, which is now a month old and has resulted in over 10,000 Palestinian casualties according to reports from the Hamas-led health ministry, is braced for an escalation in military and civilian deaths.

The leading American diplomat is advocating for the ceasefires to create opportunities for delivering crucial humanitarian aid into Gaza and for securing the release of hostages taken by Hamas in their lethal raid into southern Israel on October 7, which led to the deaths of over 1,400 individuals, predominantly non-combatants.

In his remarks before leaving Ankara, Blinken stated, “Engagement with Israeli authorities on measures to reduce civilian harm is ongoing. We are intensively working to facilitate increased humanitarian support to Gaza.”

In addition, Blinken highlighted the efforts being made to secure the release of hostages, including American citizens, held by Hamas.

Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesperson, relayed that both Blinken and Fidan reiterated the value of U.S.-Turkish cooperation as NATO allies, with discussions covering Euro-Atlantic security and Sweden’s NATO bid.

Notably, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a vocal critic of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, did not meet with Blinken. Erdogan’s stance has deviated from other NATO members by not fully endorsing Israel’s defense prerogatives.

Concurrent with Blinken and Fidan’s meeting, protests took place in Ankara with participants from an Islamist group displaying Turkish and Palestinian flags and denouncing the U.S. and Israel. Earlier, student protestors heading towards the Foreign Ministry chanting against Blinken were dispersed by the police.

Additionally, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara was the site of protests where participants displayed banners condemning genocide, marking the second consecutive day of public dissent during Blinken’s visit.

Violence also erupted on Sunday near the U.S.-Turkish Incirlik airbase in Adana, with Turkish riot police employing tear gas and water cannons against pro-Palestinian protestors attempting to breach the facility.

Turkish officials, preferring anonymity, indicated that Fidan had pressed Blinken for actions to safeguard civilians in Gaza, advocate for their right against forced displacement, and promote a comprehensive ceasefire.

Despite Blinken’s efforts in his second tour since hostilities commenced, there is lukewarm global reception for his proposals. Israel has dismissed the idea of temporary halts in operations, while Arab and Muslim states demand an immediate ceasefire, with the Palestinian civilian death toll mounting under Israeli assaults.

The U.S. continues to persuade Israel to respect wartime laws to protect non-combatants and to enhance humanitarian assistance for Gaza’s residents. However, it remains uncertain if Israel will consent to intermittent halts in its extensive campaign to dismantle Hamas, or if such measures would alleviate the international community’s growing distress.

Jordan and Turkey have withdrawn their ambassadors from Israel, reflecting a shift in international sentiment from initial sympathy following October 7 to indignation as images of Gaza’s plight become widespread.

At a press event in Amman, both the Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers, alongside Blinken, condemned Israel’s actions as disproportionate and an indiscriminate punitive response against the Palestinian populace.

Globally, the weekend witnessed massive demonstrations in capital cities, with protestors decrying Israel and critiquing U.S. support for its policies.

Blinken’s next diplomatic engagements are in Asia, where he will discuss the Gaza situation alongside other pressing global issues.

Blinken’s visit to Ramallah for discussions with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was met with Palestinian protestors, and no public statements were made post-meeting.

In Iraq, following discussions with Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, American forces encountered hostility from Iranian-backed militias, downing an attack drone targeting U.S. and coalition troops.

As Israel’s staunchest ally, the U.S. is increasingly using its leverage to moderate Israel’s military strategy in Gaza, which has been under a continuous and intense siege.

Arab nations, expressing anger over the humanitarian cost and viewing the Gaza crisis as primarily Israel’s responsibility, have been reticent to embrace American suggestions for crisis resolution.

The report included contributions from Suzan Fraser of Big Big News, stationed in Ankara.

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 primary objective of Secretary Blinken’s Middle East tour was to seek regional consensus on alleviating civilian suffering in Gaza amid the Israeli military campaign against Hamas, and to build support for the Biden administration’s proposal for “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting.

Who did Secretary Blinken meet with during his visit to Turkey?

During his visit to Turkey, Secretary Blinken met with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan to discuss matters of mutual concern, including the situation in Gaza, U.S.-Turkish cooperation as NATO allies, and regional security issues like Sweden’s NATO accession.

What are the main outcomes of Secretary Blinken’s meetings regarding the conflict in Gaza?

While Secretary Blinken has engaged in discussions to minimize civilian casualties and increase humanitarian aid to Gaza, the outcomes remain modest, with limited support for the proposed “humanitarian pauses” in fighting. Efforts also include the push for the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Were there any protests during Secretary Blinken’s visit to Turkey?

Yes, Blinken’s visit to Turkey was marked by protests. Demonstrators from an Islamist group displayed Turkish and Palestinian flags, held up anti-U.S. and anti-Israel placards, and in a separate event, rallied against what they termed as genocide outside the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.

Did Secretary Blinken meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan?

No, Secretary Blinken did not meet with President Erdogan during his visit. President Erdogan has been highly critical of the Israeli government and has not fully supported Israel’s right to self-defense, contrasting with the positions of other NATO allies.

How has the international community responded to Blinken’s efforts for a ceasefire?

The international response to Secretary Blinken’s ceasefire efforts has been tepid, with Israel rejecting the idea of pauses in the military campaign and Arab and Muslim nations calling for an immediate ceasefire in light of the rising Palestinian civilian casualties.

What was the response in Arab countries to Blinken’s Middle East tour?

The response in Arab countries has been one of resistance to American suggestions for resolving the crisis, with expressions of outrage at the civilian toll of Israeli military operations and a view that the crisis in Gaza is a problem largely of Israel’s making.

More about Blinken Middle East diplomacy

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Alice Hart November 7, 2023 - 12:16 am

the situation in Gaza is just heartbreaking and it seems like the efforts for a ceasefire are just stuck in limbo where’s the real push for peace?

Sandra G November 7, 2023 - 7:24 am

its a complex situation but the article doesnt capture the urgency of a ceasefire enough, people are suffering and it seems like world leaders are just on another round of ‘business as usual’

John Miller November 7, 2023 - 11:42 am

really surprised to see Blinken didnt even get a meeting with Erdogan given the circumstances. you’d think that would be top priority with everything thats going on

Mark S November 7, 2023 - 8:40 pm

so blinken’s tour just resulted in protests and no solid commitments? what was the point even. diplomacy seems like just talk no action these days


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