Blinken says negotiations on ceasefire, hostage release ‘getting closer’

Blinken says negotiations on ceasefire, hostage release ‘getting closer’ - International News - News

US Diplomacy Intensifies in Pursuit of a Ceasefire and Humanitarian Aid for Gaza

The pursuit of an immediate ceasefire in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, tied to the release of hostages held by Hamas, is reportedly progressing, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. In an interview with Al-Hadath in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Blinken shared that the gaps between the parties are narrowing and a ceasefire agreement is a distinct possibility (Transcript by the State Department).

Blinken expressed that significant efforts have been made in collaboration with Qatar, Egypt, and Israel to put forth a robust proposal on the table. Despite Hamas’ initial reluctance, negotiations are ongoing as Hamas presented new demands and requests. Blinken refused to disclose specifics regarding the narrowing gaps or his confidence in the agreement’s possibility, following earlier optimistic statements from President Joe Biden that later faced backlash from Israeli, Hamas, and Qatari officials.

The US Secretary of State emphasized the importance of Hamas accepting the proposal to bring relief to the suffering population in Gaza and alleviate their misery. Senior Biden administration officials stated earlier that Israel had accepted a six-week ceasefire proposal, but Blinken reiterated the need for Hamas to agree to this offer.

Blinken also expressed concern over the limited humanitarian assistance reaching Gaza and urged Israel to open up more access points to the territory. He announced that a floating maritime pier project, aimed at delivering large-scale aid shipments, was under construction and expected to be completed in a matter of weeks. However, Blinken emphasized that this initiative should not replace efforts to secure greater land-based assistance for the people of Gaza.

During his visit to Egypt on Thursday, Blinken highlighted the importance of preparing for post-conflict governance in Gaza. He encouraged the emergence of a new Palestinian Authority cabinet comprised of younger, more representative figures to revitalize the organization and address transparency, corruption, and the delivery of essential services for the Palestinian population. Blinken acknowledged that a strong partnership between the new Palestinian Authority and Israel would be crucial to ensure successful implementation of these initiatives.

Blinken declined to discuss specific “alternatives” regarding an Israeli military operation in Rafah, stating that discussions with Israeli officials were ongoing. The US has been pressing Israel for a plan to protect the approximately 1.5 million Palestinians seeking refuge in Rafah while maintaining peace and security in the region. Blinken reiterated the concern for minimizing harm to civilians, acknowledging Hamas’ role in causing destruction and violence, and the significant hindrance it poses to achieving lasting peace for Palestinians, Israelis, and the entire Middle East.