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World

'Extraordinary opportunity' for Israel to normalise ties with Arab states: Blinken

MUNICH: Israel has an “extraordinary opportunity” to end a cycle of violence in the coming months as almost every...
Published February 17, 2024

MUNICH: Israel has an "extraordinary opportunity" to end a cycle of violence in the coming months as almost every Arab nation is in favour of normalising relations with it, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday.

Efforts underway to reform the Palestinian Authority would also help it become a better partner for Israel, assessed Blinken.

As Israel pushes on with its war against Hamas, triggered by the Gazan rulers' attack on Israeli soil, negotiators have been scrambling to find ways to end the conflict and build long-term peace.

Hamas chief insists on Gaza ceasefire

Blinken, who has travelled several times to the Middle East since the war erupted, has been in talks with key figures in the region to seek a truce deal and "an enduring end" to the Israel-Hamas war.

But the efforts risk being torpedoed as Israel readies an incursion into Rafah, the southern Gaza border city where around 1.5 million people have sought shelter.

In a message that appeared aimed at Israel, Blinken said he thought that "there is an extraordinary opportunity for Israel in the months ahead to once and for all end that cycle" of violence.

"There are new facts that didn't exist before," he told the Munich Security Conference.

"Starting with the fact that virtually every Arab country now generally wants to integrate Israel into the region, to normalise relations if they haven't already done so, to provide security assurances and commitments, so that Israel can feel more safe and more secure."

Genuine efforts were also underway to reform the Palestinian Authority, which holds power in the West Bank, but not Hamas-ruled Gaza, Blinken said.

The aim is to make it "more effective in representing the interests of the Palestinian people and would be a better partner for Israel in that future," he said.

Nevertheless, there is also an "imperative to proceed to a Palestinian state -- one that also ensures the security of Israel."

At a meeting with Israel's President Isaac Herzog in Munich, Blinken also alluded to the "genuine opportunities" for a more secure future for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Herzog agreed that there are opportunities but that "they need to be studied in depth".

He stressed however that Israel must "complete the work of undermining and eradicating the basic infrastructure of Hamas."

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