Blinken visits Jordan, wrapping up Mideast tour to shore up Gaza truce

US secretary of state meets with King Abdullah II following two days of talks in Israel, the West Bank and Egypt

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves upon arrival at Queen Alia International Airport, in the Jordanian capital Amman, on May 26, 2021. (Alex Brandon/POOL/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves upon arrival at Queen Alia International Airport, in the Jordanian capital Amman, on May 26, 2021. (Alex Brandon/POOL/AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Jordan Wednesday, wrapping up a two-day Mideast tour that aimed to shore up an Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza.

After meeting Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi — whom he praised for helping bring an end to the intense violence “relatively quickly” — he flew to Jordan, where half of the 10 million-strong population is of Palestinian origin.

Blinken met King Abdullah II, following two days of regional talks — including with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders — to throw Washington’s support behind the truce that ended 11 days of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel and heavy Israeli retaliatory airstrikes.

“Securing the ceasefire was important, particularly because of the devastating toll violence took on families on both sides,” Blinken told reporters after meeting with the Jordanian monarch in Amman, his final stop.

“We see the ceasefire not as an end, but as a beginning of something to build on.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at Bayt Al Urdon, May 26, 2021, in Amman, Jordan. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

Following talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Blinken vowed to rebuild US relations with the Palestinians by reopening a consulate in Jerusalem, as well as give millions in aid for the war-battered Gaza Strip.

The announcements signaled a break with US policy under former president Donald Trump, who had shuttered the diplomatic mission for Palestinians in 2019 and slashed aid to the Palestinian Authority.

In the long term, Blinken evoked the “possibility of resuming the effort to achieve a two-state solution, which we continue to believe is the only way to truly assure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, and of course to give the Palestinians the state they’re entitled to.”

After meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he reiterated support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, adding that they must not benefit from the reconstruction aid.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his office in Jerusalem, May 25, 2021. (Haim Zach / GPO)

Hamas political chief Yahya Sinwar vowed Wednesday not to take “a single cent” of the aid, insisting that “we have never taken a cent in the past.”

Rebuilding Gaza

On Wednesday, after meeting with Sissi, Blinken later said that both “believe strongly that Palestinians and Israelis deserve equally to live in safety and security,” and that “Egypt is vital to these aspirations.”

Unlike the United States and many European governments, which boycott the Hamas terror group, Egypt maintains regular contacts.

Last week, Sissi pledged $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in Gaza.

Egypt was also the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, with Jordan following suit in 1994.

Palestinian volunteers sweep dust in front of a building destroyed during the latest round of fighting, in Gaza City’s Rimal district on May 25, 2021. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Cairo has sent delegations to both Tel Aviv and Gaza to watch over the implementation of the ceasefire, and has also been coordinating international relief and reconstruction aid for the enclave, which has been under Israeli and Egyptian blockade for nearly 15 years to prevent Hamas from building terror infrastructure.

Blinken said Wednesday the US was in the process of providing more than $360 million in assistance to Palestinians, including $250 million announced in March and April.

On top of that, the administration intended to provide $75 million in aid to the Palestinians, as well as $5.5 million in immediate disaster assistance for Gaza, and nearly $33 million for an emergency humanitarian appeal by the UN.

The latest military escalation started when Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem after clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police officers at the Temple Mount.

In this May 10, 2021 photo, rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Israeli security forces had also sought to quell protests against the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Jewish families.

Rocket and other fire from Gaza claimed 13 lives in Israel, including one child and teenager, an Israeli soldier, one Indian national and two Thai workers, medics say. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded.

Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people in 11 days of conflict from May 10, the health ministry in Gaza says. Israel asserts some 200 of those killed were terror operatives.

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