update deskIsrael at War

Blinken heading to Saudi Arabia, Egypt to discuss ceasefire deal

An Israeli delegation is in Doha for talks on freeing the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a news conference at the State Department in Washington, March 13, 2024. Photo by Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a news conference at the State Department in Washington, March 13, 2024. Photo by Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Saudi Arabia and Egypt this week to discuss efforts to secure a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas, according to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

The top American diplomat will hold talks in Jeddah on Wednesday before heading to Cairo on Thursday.

“The secretary will discuss efforts to reach an immediate ceasefire agreement that secures the release of all remaining hostages, intensified international efforts to increase humanitarian assistance to Gaza, and coordination on post-conflict planning for Gaza, including ensuring Hamas can no longer govern or repeat the attacks of Oct. 7,” Miller said on Tuesday while traveling with Blinken in the Philippines.

Blinken will also discuss “a political path for the Palestinian people with security assurances with Israel, and an architecture for lasting peace and security in the region.”

The top Biden administration official later confirmed the plans, saying he would “discuss the right architecture for lasting regional peace.”

“We’ve also impressed upon Israel the imperative of having a plan for Gaza for when the conflict ends, which we hope will be as soon as possible, consistent with Israel’s needs to defend itself and make sure Oct. 7 can never happen again,” Blinken continued.

He also said Gaza’s population is experiencing “severe levels of acute food insecurity,” adding that it was the first time that an entire population had received that classification.

It will be Blinken’s sixth trip to the Middle East since the Hamas-led massacre of Oct. 7.

Jerusalem dispatched a delegation to Doha on Monday led by Mossad chief David Barnea, after the Security Cabinet on Sunday approved Israel’s participation in the current round of ceasefire talks with Qatar and Egypt and indirectly Hamas.

It marks the first negotiations since the start of Ramadan earlier this month.

Barnea left Doha on Tuesday, the Qataris and later the Israelis confirmed. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office noted that “senior working teams remain in Qatar to continue the talks and negotiations,” as quoted by the Times of Israel.

Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari said that “technical teams are meeting as we speak” after announcing Barnea’s departure, which was expected after holding talks into the night on Monday.

Barnea and the IDF representative at the Doha talks, Lt. Gen. Nitzan Alon, who also returned to Israel, are expected to provide an update when the War Cabinet meets on Tuesday night.

An Israeli official estimated that the negotiations in Doha could take up to two weeks because of difficulties Hamas leaders in Qatar may have communicating with terror leaders in Gaza.

“There is going to be a long and complex process here—the negotiations are moving to be with [Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya] Sinwar. Even if there is ‘Hamas abroad,’ they have zero mandate to make decisions. Every comma and every point will take between 24 and 36 hours. It’s going to be a complicated process,” a senior Israeli official told Channel 12 on Monday.

The Israeli delegation is staying at the same hotel as the Hamas delegation. However, there was to be no direct contact and a corridor separates them.

The Israeli delegation participated in the Iftar break-fast meal with the Qatari hosts as part of the monthlong Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

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