U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Jordan Wednesday on the last leg of a Middle East tour for a meeting with King Abdullah to solidify the cease-fire agreement between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
Blinken arrived in Jordan, where half the population of 10 million are of Palestinian origin, after meeting earlier in the day in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi at the Heliopolis Presidential Palace, May 26, 2021.
Egypt was heavily involved in achieving the cease-fire in the recent conflict.
His visit to Jordan and Egypt came one day after expressing support for Israel’s security and announcing reconstruction aid for Gaza.
"As you know, Egypt played a critical role in helping to broker the cease-fire, and Jordan has long been a voice for peace and stability in the region," Blinken told reporters Tuesday.
Blinken began Wednesday by meeting with Israeli President Reuben Rivlin, closing the first leg of his first trip to the Middle East since becoming the top U.S. diplomat.
"The Secretary and President Rivlin discussed ways to promote coexistence and tolerance among all citizens of Israel regardless of heritage or background," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. "They reaffirmed the importance of the steadfast U.S.-Israel partnership and the need to promote peace and stability for all."
Price also said Blinken invited Rivlin to visit the United States in the coming weeks.
After talks Tuesday in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Blinken said he will ask the U.S. Congress for $75 million in assistance for Palestinians in Gaza.
"We know that the last round of violence is symptomatic of a larger set of issues that we have to address if we’re going to prevent its recurrence, and that’s what we talked about today," Blinken said. "We welcome the cease-fire that continues to hold, but that’s not enough. We have to build on the cease-fire and try to move things in a genuinely positive direction."
Blinken also reiterated Tuesday that the Biden administration’s belief that a two-state solution "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 that they’re entitled to."
The top U.S. diplomat said the United States would reopen its consulate in Jerusalem after the Trump administration closed it in 2019 and provide $5.5 million in immediate disaster assistance and more than $32 million for a United Nations emergency humanitarian relief campaign.
Blinken said the consulate’s reopening is "an important way for our country to engage with and provide support to the Palestinian people."
Of the U.S.-designated terror group that controls Gaza, Blinken said, "We will work to ensure that Hamas doesn’t benefit from these reconstruction efforts."
Palestinian Shaban Esleem inspects the rubbles of his bookstore which was destroyed in Israeli airstrikes during the Israeli-Palestinian fighting, in Gaza City, May 24, 2021.
Earlier in the day, the secretary of state underscored Israel’s right to defend itself as he visited Jerusalem as part of an effort to build on a cease-fire.
Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blinken said that both Israel and the Palestinians experienced "profound" losses during the fighting, and that there is a lot of work ahead to restore hope, respect and trust.
"Casualties are often reduced to numbers, but behind every number is an individual human being — a daughter, a son, a father, a mother, a grandparent, a best friend," Blinken said. "And as the Talmud teaches, to lose a life is to lose the whole world, whether that life is Palestinian or Israeli."
Blinken also pledged help to expand economic opportunities for Palestinians both in Gaza and in the West Bank, saying that doing so would provide for a more stable environment that will benefit both Palestinians and Israelis.
Netanyahu thanked the United States for its show of support, while warning the militants to maintain the cease-fire.
"If Hamas breaks the calm and attacks Israel, our response will be very powerful," he said.