US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Egypt on the next leg of a diplomatic mission aimed at strengthening a cease-fire that ended an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.
Blinken was scheduled to hold talks with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry and the country’s chief spy Abbas Kamel.
Blinken wrapped up extensive talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and is scheduled to travel to Amman, Jordan late Wednesday to meet with the Jordanian king and other officials.
He has vowed to “rally international support” to rebuild the destruction in hard-hit Gaza, while also promising to make sure that none of the aid destined for the territory reaches Hamas.
Ahead of his departure, Blinken extended US President Joe Biden’s invitation to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to visit the United States in the coming weeks. Rivlin accepted, according to a statement from his office.
Blinken described Egypt and Jordan as central players in trying to bring calm to the region. Both countries are key US allies that have peace agreements with Israel and frequently serve as mediators between Israel and the Palestinians.
“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,” he told reporters late Tuesday.
In Egypt, which borders both Israel and Gaza, he was scheduled to meet with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and other top officials. Biden spoke with el-Sissi during the war to help broker the cease-fire.
During talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Tuesday, Blinken made clear that the US has no immediate plans to pursue peace talks between the sides, perhaps because previous efforts by past administrations have all failed. Instead, he expressed hope for creating a “better environment” that might lead to peace talks.
That could begin with the Gaza reconstruction effort. The 11-day war killed more than 250 people, mostly Palestinians, and caused heavy destruction in the impoverished coastal territory. Preliminary estimates have put the damage in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
In a gesture to the Palestinians, Blinken on Tuesday announced plans to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem — an office that historically handled diplomatic outreach to the Palestinians.
Blinken also announced nearly $40 million in additional aid to the Palestinians. In all, the Biden administration has pledged some $360 million to the Palestinians, restoring badly needed aid that the Trump administration had cut off.