Blinken meets Egypt’s Sisi as Middle East diplomacy tour wraps up

CAIRO – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on Thursday, as he concluded a bout of frenetic diplomacy between Israel and its neighbors over the war in Gaza.

The visit came a day after Sisi met King Abdullah of Jordan and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Red Sea port of Aqaba as Washington pushes for a path forward from the bloodshed in Gaza, even as the conflict threatens to spread further to Lebanon, Iraq and Red Sea shipping lanes.

Egypt and Jordan warned after the talks that Israel’s crackdown, which has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry, must not displace the strip’s 2.3 million people or end in an Israeli occupation. Israel and its U.S. backers have insisted that it is not Israel’s plan.

The war began with an Oct. 7 attack by Palestinian Hamas militants who killed 1,200 people and took more than 200 hostages.

Blinken, who has visited nine countries and the occupied West Bank in a week, brought a rough agreement to Israel that its Muslim-majority neighbors would help rehabilitate Gaza after the war and continue economic integration with Israel but only if Israel commits to eventually allowing the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

That state would incorporate Gaza and the West Bank, where Blinken met Abbas in the de facto Palestinian capital of Ramallah on Wednesday. Washington wants the unpopular Palestinian Authority to undertake reforms and regain credibility in order to take charge of Gaza if and when Israel achieves its goal of eliminating Hamas, which has run the strip since 2007.

In Egypt, Blinken was also likely to discuss ongoing talks with Hamas mediated by Egypt and Qatar.

He told NBC in an interview on Tuesday that he was hopeful Hamas would engage on talks on the release of more hostages, after an earlier deal that saw fighting paused and more than 100 hostages released broke down. REUTERS

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