April 22, 2024

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Blinken says negotiations on ceasefire and hostage release are “approaching”

Blinken says negotiations on ceasefire and hostage release are “approaching”

Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a multi-stakeholder roundtable session at the Third Democracy Summit in Seoul on March 18, 2024.


Negotiations to secure US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that an immediate ceasefire in the war in Gaza linked to the release of hostages held by Hamas is “close” to an agreement.

“I think the gaps are narrowing, and I think reaching an agreement is very possible,” Blinken said in an interview with Al Hadath TV in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, according to a transcript published by the State Department.

We have worked hard with Qatar, Egypt and Israel to put a strong proposal on the table. We did it; Hamas will not accept this. They came back with other requests, other demands. Blinken explained that negotiators are working on that now.

Blinken did not provide details about the narrowing gaps or what would strengthen his confidence in the possibility of reaching an agreement. President Joe Biden last month He expressed his confidence that a ceasefire was imminentBut his administration later backed away from this prediction after officials from Israel, Hamas and Qatar They distanced themselves From Biden's optimism.

Blinken once again stressed that the responsibility falls on Hamas to accept the proposal on the table, with a senior Biden administration official telling reporters earlier this month that Israel has essentially accepted a six-week ceasefire.

“A very strong proposal has been put on the table, and we have to see if Hamas can say yes to the proposal. “If that happens, if that happens, this is the most urgent way to alleviate the misery of the people in Gaza, which is very much what we want,” Blinken said.

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Blinken said it again Not enough aid is reaching the people of Gaza He called on Israel to “open more access points to Gaza.” The floating pier said that Biden announced earlier this month It will be built to send large shipments of aid to the region, and it is under construction, “and I think it will be done within weeks, I hope.”

“This is no substitute for making sure we get as much help as possible across the ground,” he noted.

Also Wednesday, Blinken met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and discussed the urgent need to stop hostilities in Gaza, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency. The Saudi Press Agency reported that the two sides discussed the latest developments and “efforts to stop military operations,” in addition to the security and humanitarian situation in the region.

Blinken, who will travel to Egypt to meet Arab leaders on Thursday, said in his interview with Al Hadath TV that it is important to be prepared “for what will happen with the governance in Gaza” after the war ends.

“I think it is very important that the cabinet of the new government that will be established has new faces, younger people — people who truly represent the people of Gaza and the West Bank, and who are willing to do the things necessary to truly revitalize the Palestinian Authority,” he said. “It is more capable of Providing services to the Palestinian people – more transparency in government, combating corruption, and then gaining people’s trust.”

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He added: “Now, it will also be necessary for Israel to work and cooperate with the new Palestinian Authority because it will be very difficult for it to achieve real results without that.”

Blinken did not provide details about “alternatives” to the Israeli incursion into Rafah, which American officials intend to discuss with Israeli officials. The United States asked Israel how it intends to protect the estimated 1.5 million Palestinians who have taken refuge in southern Gaza City ahead of the planned military operation there.

“We should have a chance to talk to the Israelis about this, but as I said, what we don’t want to see is a major ground operation because we don’t see how that can be done without causing serious harm to civilians,” he said.

But at the same time, it is necessary to do something about Hamas, because Hamas has brought nothing but death and destruction to the Palestinians. If you go back, you will find that Israel withdrew from Gaza unilaterally in 2006; Hamas engaged in major attacks on Israel in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014, 2021, and of course in October of 2023. This is not a sustainable situation. It is also the biggest obstacle to trying to find lasting peace, lasting security, including a Palestinian state, which is the only way in our view to get something that is truly permanent and can achieve lasting security for Palestinians, for Israelis, and for Palestinians. The region,” he said.

CNN Kevin Liptak, Kylie Atwood, Alex Marquardt Jack Forrest contributed to this report.

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