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DUBAI: U.S. top diplomat Antony Blinken on Friday sought to begin discussions with Israel’s Arab neighbors on the future of Gaza, even as Israel resumed its assault on the Palestinian enclave aimed at annihilating Hamas.

Discussions with Arab foreign ministers covered the current state of the Israeli-Hamas war and the work being done to deliver more humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, Blinken told reporters before boarding a flight back to Washington.

He said they also talked about “what happens the day after in Gaza and how we can get on the path to a just, lasting and secure peace for Israelis and Palestinians, in fact for everyone in the region.”

Arab states had previously pushed back on U.S. attempts to discuss a post-Hamas future for Gaza, arguing for an immediate ceasefire instead, but U.S. officials hoped this week’s pause in fighting may have paved the way for talks, a senior State Department official said before the meeting.

Blinken says US Arab allies don’t want Israel conflict to spread

That pause broke down on Friday, however, and Blinken did not provide details on how the discussion went.

Concluding his third trip to the region since the conflict erupted with Hamas’ attacks on Israel in October, Blinken met the foreign ministers of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan and Bahrain, alongside representatives of the Palestinian Authority on the sidelines of the COP28 UN climate conference in Dubai, said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

Blinken has been conducting shuttle diplomacy between Israel and Arab states since the Oct. 7 attacks, which Israel says killed 1,200 people and about 240 taken hostage.

Israel responded with aerial bombing and a ground invasion that have killed 15,000 people and left thousands more buried under the rubble, according to Palestinian health authorities.

The senior State Department official said earlier that Washington wanted to begin talks on how the Gaza strip will be administered if Israel succeeds in its goal of eradicating Hamas.

Blinken tells Arab leaders ‘no more business as usual’ with Hamas

Blinken last month said Washington wants Palestinians to govern Gaza and does not want to see the territory reoccupied by Israel, blockaded or reduced in size.

No clear proposal has yet emerged for Gaza’s future security and governance, but Washington wants to get discussions started and wants countries in the region to participate, said the official, who briefed reporters ahead of the meeting on condition of anonymity.

Last month, Blinken rebuffed Arab foreign ministers’ appeals for Washington to press Israel to agree to a lasting ceasefire, arguing that would only allow Hamas to regroup and launch further attacks.

On Thursday, Blinken met Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and said he discussed the need for reforms of the Palestinian Authority, amid concerns over the organization’s ability to play a role in Gaza, currently administered by Hamas, bitter rivals of Abbas.

Blinken on Friday blamed Hamas for the end of the truce that had seen the release of about 100 hostages and allowed more aid to flow into Gaza, saying the group launched rocket attacks and reneged on commitments it had made on the release of hostages.

“We remain intensely focused on getting everyone home, getting hostages back,” Blinken said. “We’re still at this.”

In meetings with Israeli officials, Blinken pressed for Israel to “put in place clear protections for civilians and for sustaining humanitarian assistance going forward” and credited Israel for advising Gazans on safe evacuation areas, he said.


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