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Blinken lifts off for visit to Israel, West Bank, Egypt, Jordan

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken lifts off to the Middle East on Monday to press Israelis, Palestinians and regional players to build on and strengthen last week’s Gaza ceasefire, start an immediate flow of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and lay the groundwork for an eventual resumption in long-stalled peace talks.

President Joe Biden announced that he was dispatching Blinken to the region for what will be his administration’s highest-level, in-person talks on the crisis that erupted earlier this month. The State Department said Blinken will visit Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, and Egypt on a trip that comes as the administration has faced broad criticism for its initial response to the deadly violence.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he boards a plane Monday, May 24, 2021, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, en route to the Middle East. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

In a statement, Biden said Blinken will work with regional partners to ensure “the coordinated international effort to ensure immediate assistance reaches Gaza.”

Blinken’s discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Jordanian King Abdullah II will focus on shoring up the cease-fire, sending urgent aid to Gaza, ending intra-communal violence in Israeli cities, and laying the preliminary groundwork for a return to peace talks, according to a senior State Department official.

The official, who was not authorized to discuss the trip by name and spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity, said Blinken would be looking at how the US can support Israel and the Palestinians in rebuilding, address the underlying causes that led to this crisis, and advance equal measures of freedom, security and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians “in tangible ways.”

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