US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has commenced a week-long diplomatic tour across the Middle East, beginning with a meeting with Turkish officials in Istanbul. The visit aims to address escalating tensions stemming from Israel’s war on Gaza. During his discussions with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Blinken underscored the importance of preventing the conflict’s further spread, securing the release of hostages, expanding humanitarian aid, and minimising civilian casualties, as stated by US Department of State spokesperson Matthew Miller.
The strained relations between the US and Turkey predate the current conflict, involving disputes over NATO, Iraq, and a $20 billion deal for 40 F-16 fighter jets awaiting approval from the US Congress. Blinken’s talks in Ankara addressed the delay in Turkey’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership bid. Following the Turkish parliament’s recent endorsement, US officials express confidence in Turkey’s imminent approval. As part of his tour, Blinken met with the Greek Prime Minister, discussing the US Congress’s approval of F-35 fighter jet sales to Greece.
Blinken’s upcoming engagements include visits to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and the occupied West Bank. The overarching message aims at preventing the regional escalation of the Gaza conflict, with discussions covering de-escalation, the humanitarian crisis, and post-war governance in Gaza. Washington urges regional countries, including Turkey, to contribute to the Gaza Strip’s reconstruction, governance, and potential security, emphasising collaboration in the aftermath of the conflict.
Israeli attacks on Gaza have resulted in 22,722 casualties, with 58,166 individuals wounded.