In his talks with Egyptian President Sisi, Blinken also discussed plans for post-conflict governance and reconstruction in Gaza, following massive destruction there. - GulfToday

Blinken returns to region in renewed bid for peace


President Abdel-Fattah Al Sisi and Antony Blinken hold talks at the Presidential Palace in Cairo on Monday. AP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned on Monday to the Middle East as a proposed Israel-Hamas ceasefire deal hangs in the balance after the rescue of four Israeli hostages held in Gaza in a military raid and following the latest turmoil in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

With no firm public response yet from Hamas or Israel to the proposal they received 10 days ago, Blinken started his eighth visit to the region since the conflict began in October by meeting with President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi of Egypt, a key mediator with the Hamas group, and then talks with Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council (UNSC) scheduled to vote on Monday afternoon on the resolution, which welcomes the proposal and urges Hamas to accept it. But Hamas may not be the only obstacle.

The draft resolution urges Israel and Hamas "to fully implement its terms without delay and without condition.” If adopted, it would be the first UNSC resolution on a ceasefire plan aimed at ending the eight-month war.

Men walk among debris, aftermath of Israeli strikes at the area in Nuseirat refugee camp, Gaza. Reuters

US deputy ambassador Robert Wood told reporters on Monday that the United States wanted to make sure all 15 Security Council members were on board. The council’s scheduling of the vote on Monday afternoon indicated that the resolution will likely be adopted unanimously. Wood described the draft resolution as "the best, most realistic opportunity to bring at least a temporary halt to this war.”

Blinken once again called on Hamas to accept the plan, which he said has wide international support. "If you want a ceasefire, press Hamas to say ‘yes,’” he told reporters before leaving Cairo on the trip that will take him to Israel, Jordan and Qatar.

Blinken said Israel has accepted the proposal, though Netanyahu has not said so directly. "I know that there are those who are pessimistic about the prospects,” Blinken said, putting the onus squarely on Hamas. "That’s understandable. Hamas continues to show extraordinary cynicism in its actions, a disinterest not only in the well-being and security of Israelis but also Palestinians.”

A man walks past pictures of hostages kidnapped during a Oct.7 attack in Tel Aviv. Reuters

Blinken said the plan on the table is the "single best way” to get to a ceasefire, release the remaining hostages and improve regional security.

In his talks with Sisi, Blinken also discussed plans for post-conflict governance and reconstruction in Gaza, following massive destruction there.

"It’s imperative that there be a plan, and that has to involve security, it has to involve governance, it has to involve reconstruction,” Blinken said.

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters on Monday that Blinken's Gaza ceasefire comments were "biased to Israel" and that his stance is a real obstacle to reaching an agreement.

"Blinken's speech during his visit to Egypt is an example of bias to Israel and it offers an American cover to the holocaust conducted by the occupation in Gaza," he said.

"We call upon the US administration to put pressure on the occupation to stop the war on Gaza and the Hamas movement is ready to deal positively with any initiative that secures an end to the war," Zuhri said.

"It would be very good if Israel put forward its own ideas on this, and I’ll be talking to the government about that,” he said. "But one way or another, we’ve got to have these plans, we’ve got to have them in place, we’ve got to be ready to go if we want to take advantage of a ceasefire.”

In Jordan, Blinken will take part in an emergency international conference on improving the flow of aid to Gaza.


Related articles