US Secretary of State calls on Middle East leaders to prepare for Gaza’s post-war future

(Evelyn Hockstein/Associated Press)

US Secretary of State calls on Middle East leaders to prepare for Gaza’s post-war future


January 8, 2024

US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Monday that four key Arab countries and Turkey have agreed to begin planning for the reconstruction and administration of Gaza once Israel’s war against Hamas ends.

Blinken, who is on an urgent mission in the Middle East focused on preventing the conflict from spreading as fears of a regional war grow, said Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey would consider participating and contributing to the day after scenarios for the Palestinian territory, which has been devastated by three months of deadly Israeli bombings.

Those countries had previously resisted U.S. calls to begin post-war planning, emphasizing the need first for a ceasefire and a sharp reduction in civilian suffering caused by Israel’s military response to Israel’s deadly attack Hamas in October. 7 attacks.

On what is his fourth trip to the Middle East since the war began in October, Blinken said those countries were now open to such plans and that each would consider its own involvement in whatever is ultimately decided.

Everywhere I went, I found leaders determined to prevent the conflict we were now facing from spreading, and doing everything possible to deter escalation to prevent an expansion of the conflict, Blinken told to reporters who traveled with him.

Blinken made the comments after meeting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Saudi royal family’s winter camp outside the ancient Frankincense Route trading city of Al Ula in western Saudi Arabia. Blinken had previously visited Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Qatar and the UAE.

The leaders of those countries “agreed to work together and coordinate our efforts to help stabilize and recover Gaza, to chart a political path forward for the Palestinians and to work toward long-term peace, security and stability term in the region as a whole. Blinken said.

He said they are ready to make the necessary commitments to make the tough decisions to advance all these goals and advance this vision for the region.

Blinken did not provide details about possible contributions. Financial and in-kind support from the UAE and Saudi Arabia could be essential to the success of any plan.

Arab states have been highly critical of Israel’s actions and have shunned public support for long-term planning, arguing that fighting must end before such discussions can begin. They have been demanding a ceasefire since mid-October, as the number of civilian casualties began to soar.

After meeting with Blinken during his visit to Qatar, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani called for an immediate ceasefire. He said the constant images of death and destruction in Gaza desensitize people to the horrors of what is happening.

This is a great test of our humanity, he said. We are looking for a sustainable future. However, the focus now is on stopping the fighting.

On Sunday in Amman, Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned of the catastrophic consequences of the war in Gaza as he called on the US to push for an immediate ceasefire, according to a Royal Court statement.

Israel has refused to agree to a ceasefire and the US has instead called for specific temporary humanitarian pauses to allow aid to flow in and people to safety.

Another pressing priority for Blinken is increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza. In Amman, Blinken toured the World Food Program’s Regional Coordination Warehouse, packing trucks carrying aid to be delivered to Gaza through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings.

From Saudi Arabia, Blinken traveled to Israel and will also visit the West Bank and Egypt before returning to Washington on Wednesday.

The US has been pressuring Israel for weeks to allow increased amounts of food, water, fuel, medicine and other supplies into Gaza, and the UN Security Council passed a resolution in December. 22 calls for an immediate increase in deliveries. Three weeks ago, Israel opened its Kerem Shalom crossing, adding a second entry point for aid into Gaza after Rafah.

Yet the number of trucks entering has not increased significantly.

This week, an average of about 120 trucks a day entered through both border crossings in recent days, according to U.N. figures, far below the 500 trucks carrying goods that came in daily before the war and far below what aid groups say is needed.

Almost the entire population of 2.3 million people depends on the trucks crossing the border for their survival. One in four Palestinians in Gaza are hungry, and the rest are facing a hunger crisis, according to the UN

More than 85% of people in Gaza have been driven from their homes by Israeli bombing and ground offensives. Most live in UN tent camps, which are overcrowded beyond capacity

who have sprung up,

or on the street.

Blinken’s visit comes as developments in Lebanon, northern Israel, the Red Sea and Iraq have put intense pressure on a modestly successful U.S. effort to avert a regional conflagration.

since Hamas attacked Israel on October 1st. 7,

and as international criticism of Israel’s military operation increases.


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