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Blinken to visit Mideast next week to push ceasefire plan

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit the Middle East next week to push a plan for an Israel-Hamas ceasefire that aims to end the war, the State Department announced Friday.

Blinken, who will be paying his eighth visit to the region since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, will visit Israel and key US Arab partners Egypt, Jordan and Qatar from Monday through Wednesday, the State Department said.

The United States has been pushing for Hamas to accept a plan laid out a week ago by President Joe Biden that would halt fighting for at least six weeks and free hostages seized by militants on October 7.

Blinken “will emphasize the importance of Hamas accepting the proposal on the table, which is nearly identical to one Hamas endorsed last month,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

The top US diplomat “will discuss how the ceasefire proposal would benefit both Israelis and Palestinians. He will underscore that it would alleviate suffering in Gaza, enable a massive surge in humanitarian assistance and allow Palestinians to return to their neighborhoods,” he said.

Miller said the plan would also “unlock the possibility of achieving calm along Israel’s northern border” as tensions rise between Israel and Lebanese militants Hezbollah.

Hamas has not yet formally replied to the offer but has been critical, saying it was not a detailed, written proposal. Qatar and Egypt have been the main interlocutors, with the Qataris submitting the plan to Hamas.

In Jordan, Blinken will take part in a UN-backed conference on the humanitarian response in Gaza.

Biden on May 31 unveiled a plan that he hopes will bring an end to the war, which has taken a heavy toll on civilians and increasingly angered his electoral base five months ahead of elections.

Under the plan, Israel would withdraw from Gaza population centers and Hamas would free hostages for an initial six weeks, with the ceasefire extended as negotiators seek a permanent end to hostilities.

Biden billed the plan as an Israeli offer, although it has drawn criticism from some right-wing Israeli politicians critical to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government.

Netanyahu also faced pressure in other direction from retired general Benny Gantz, a centrist who joined Netanyahu in his war cabinet but is seen as a formidable rival if new elections are called.

Blinken will head to the region from France, where he has accompanied Biden for commemorations of the 80th anniversary of the D-Day Allied landings in Normandy. He will then return Wednesday to join the president at the summit of the Group of Seven major industrial democracies in Italy.

 

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AFP

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.







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