ANKARA, Nov 6 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken completed a four-day visit to the Middle East, with little progress in delivering humanitarian pauses as Washington seeks more aid to Gaza in amid Israeli bombings. the enclave and restore calm to ensure the safe passage of hostages kidnapped by Hamas militants.
America’s top diplomat began his second tour of the region last Thursday since the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalated after Oct. 7, when Hamas militants stormed into Israel in the most serious attack killer in the country’s history, killing more than 1,400 people and kidnapping 240 others.
While rejecting growing global calls for a ceasefire, Washington has sought a humanitarian pause in Israel’s military offensive, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed Blinken on Friday after their talks, saying there is no would not slow down Israeli operations unless an agreement is reached on this subject. the hostages.
Asked about concrete progress he made during his tour of the region, Blinken highlighted efforts to avoid regional escalation.
“Sometimes the absence of something serious may not be the clearest evidence of progress, but it is,” he told reporters before leaving for Tokyo for the game. Asian of his trip.
He said Washington was focused on increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza and would continue to work with the Israelis on measures to minimize civilian casualties, while recognizing the lack of a breakthrough. “This is all a work in progress,” he said.
Washington wants to prevent wider regional conflict and has stepped up diplomacy with regional countries whose people have been angered by Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
NO ERDOGAN MEETING
In Turkey, Blinken met with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and discussed efforts to increase aid to Gaza, the need to protect civilians and prevent the spread of the conflict, according to statements from both sides .
The meeting between the two senior diplomats lasted two and a half hours, said a US State Department official. No discussions took place between Blinken and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has criticized Washington for its “unlimited support for Israel.”
Blinken met Erdogan in February, when he visited the country following a devastating earthquake. Erdogan visited the Black Sea coastal city of Rize on Sunday and remained there throughout Blinken’s visit to Ankara.
Turkey, a NATO member that supports a two-state solution in the Middle East, has sharply stepped up its criticism of Israel as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens. It also hosts members of Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by some Western countries but not by Ankara.
As Blinken met with Fidan in Ankara, dozens of people gathered outside the Foreign Ministry building to protest U.S. support for Israel.
Blinken “gave unlimited support for the Israeli genocide – not the war,” said activist Zeynel Abidin Ozkan, who participated.
Health officials in Hamas-controlled Gaza said Monday that 10,022 Palestinians had been killed so far in the war.
On Sunday, pro-Palestinian crowds attempted to storm an air base in southern Turkey that houses U.S. troops hours before Blinken arrived.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry source said Fidan told Blinken that a ceasefire must be declared immediately in Gaza and that Israel must be prevented from targeting civilians and displacing people.
Blinken said the United States remained focused on increasing aid to Gaza and freeing hostages and added that other countries in the region can play an important role in their return.
“We are working very aggressively to get more humanitarian aid to Gaza. And we have very concrete ways to do that. And I think we will see in the days to come that aid can expand significantly “, did he declare.
Reporting by Simon Lewis, Huseyin Hayatsever, Ece Toksabay, Mert Ozkan and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Daren Butler, Gareth Jones, Jonathan Spicer, Sharon Singleton and Marguerita Choy
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