Tuesday, February 6, 2024
Year : 2, Issue : 6
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Saudi Arabia today, his first stop in a wider tour of the Middle East as Washington tries to advance negotiations on a normalization deal between the kingdom and Israel, as well as make progress on talks for the governance of postwar Gaza.
The top US diplomat’s fifth trip to the region since October 7 comes at a perilous moment and amid retaliatory US strikes on Iran-backed militia across Syria, Iraq, and Yemen in response to a drone strike last week in Jordan that killed three American troops and wounded dozens.
Blinken is also set to visit Egypt, Qatar, and Israel this week and push to advance the Egyptian- and Qatari-mediated conversations with Hamas to achieve a hostage deal.
In Riyadh, Blinken was expected to meet with the kingdom’s de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and his Saudi counterpart, foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.
The veteran diplomat’s latest trip to the Middle East comes at a time senior US officials describe as one of the most dangerous the region has seen in decades. The conflict has escalated as Iran-backed groups have entered the fray and fired on US forces in Iraq and Syria, while Yemen’s Houthis have attacked shipping routes in the Red Sea.
Landing in the Saudi capital Riyadh amid Washington’s retaliatory attacks, Blinken will nevertheless try to reinforce the message that the Biden administration neither seeks war with Iran nor wants the conflict to spread further.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday refused to be drawn on whether the United States might attack sites inside Iran. He said Washington did not see a wider war in the region, but would continue to respond if attacked.
There is no reason for the US campaign of retaliation, unfolding since Friday, to derail Washington’s conversations with Arab states and Israel on normalization and post-war Gaza, a senior US official said.