US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to embark on a series of visits to various countries this week. His itinerary includes stops in Israel, the West Bank, Belgium, North Macedonia, and the UAE. This will be Blinken's third visit to Israel since the recent attack launched by Hamas on southern Israel.
During his visit to Israel and the West Bank, Blinken plans to discuss several important topics. These include Israel's right to defend itself in accordance with international humanitarian law, ongoing efforts to secure the release of remaining hostages, and the protection of civilian life during Israel's counter-offensive against Hamas in Gaza. He will also address the principles he outlined in Tokyo on November 8th. The US Department of State released a statement confirming these plans.
Blinken's discussions in Israel and the West Bank will focus on key issues such as the right of Israel to self-defense within international humanitarian law, ongoing efforts to secure the release of remaining hostages, the protection of civilian lives during Israeli operations in Gaza, and the acceleration of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza. The statement also mentions efforts to stimulate the creation of a future Palestinian state and the prevention of further conflict escalation.
Blinken expressed his satisfaction with the release of hostages from Gaza, including a young American girl, and emphasized the US's commitment to continuing efforts until all hostages are freed.
In addition to Blinken's visits, US President Joe Biden welcomed the two-day truce between Israel and Hamas and commended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, and Qatar's Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani for their dedication to reaching this agreement. The president stated that he has been actively involved in ensuring the success of this deal, which has already resulted in the release of more than 50 hostages and an increase in humanitarian assistance to the suffering civilians in Gaza.
Biden emphasized that the humanitarian pause has allowed for an escalation in humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, and the United States has played a significant role in leading this effort. He pledged to take advantage of the lull in fighting to further increase humanitarian aid and continue working towards a peaceful and dignified future for the Palestinian people.
Apart from his visits to Israel and the West Bank, Blinken will also attend the NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting in Belgium, including the first foreign ministers meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council. He will emphasize NATO's unwavering support for Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression, express US support for democracy and regional stability in the Western Balkans, and discuss priorities for the upcoming Washington Summit in July 2024.
During his visit to North Macedonia, Blinken will engage with OSCE counterparts to reaffirm the US's commitment to the OSCE and its core mission of promoting security, stability, and cooperation among states. Human rights and peaceful dispute resolution will be key focuses of these discussions. He will also highlight the significant role played by the OSCE in advancing comprehensive security in the region.
Finally, Blinken will travel to Dubai to attend the UN Climate Conference, COP28, where he will engage with global leaders to emphasize the need for continued action to address the climate crisis. He will also hold meetings with counterparts to discuss regional issues, including the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.