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Turkey’s Erdogan and US diplomat Blinken kick off Gaza diplomacy tour with high-stakes meeting

Top NewsTurkey's Erdogan and US diplomat Blinken kick off Gaza diplomacy tour with high-stakes meeting
The recent diplomatic talks in Istanbul between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Turkish officials marked the beginning of a significant week-long tour across the Middle East. The primary aim of this trip is to ease the escalating tensions that have emerged since the start of Israel’s war on Gaza in October.

High-Stakes Meeting with President Erdogan

During his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Blinken underscored the importance of preventing the spread of the conflict, securing the release of hostages, expanding humanitarian aid, and reducing civilian casualties. Furthermore, he emphasized the necessity of working towards sustainable regional peace that ensures Israel’s security while advancing the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Turkish Critique and Prioritization of Humanitarian Crisis

Erdogan, known for his outspoken criticism of Israel’s military actions in Gaza, had previously declined a meeting with Blinken during the US diplomat’s visit to Ankara in November. This stance was a result of Washington’s unwavering support for Israel’s offensive in Gaza. However, their recent meeting in Istanbul marked a significant shift in engagement. Discussions with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan primarily centered on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Fidan highlighted the escalating aggression by Israel and stressed the need for an immediate ceasefire, allowing the permanent delivery of aid. Additionally, he underscored the urgency of returning to negotiations for a two-state solution.

‘De-escalation’ and Regional Cooperation

The strained relationship between the US and Turkey, predating the current conflict, has been marred by various foreign policy disputes, encompassing matters related to NATO and Iraq. One of the focal points of Blinken’s discussions in Istanbul was Turkey’s process to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership, a matter that has been a source of contention. Nonetheless, US officials remain optimistic about Ankara’s imminent approval of Sweden’s accession following its endorsement by the Turkish parliament.
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Regional Tour and US Objectives

Following the meetings in Istanbul, Blinken proceeded to the island of Crete to engage with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, indicating the multi-faceted nature of his diplomatic engagement. The upcoming segments of Blinken’s tour include visits to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and the occupied West Bank. The overarching message that Washington aims to convey is its aversion to a regional escalation of the Gaza conflict and its desire to address the humanitarian crisis while also preparing for post-conflict governance and reconstruction efforts.

Priorities and the Way Forward

Blinken’s visit to the region is underlined by three primary messages: the imperative of de-escalating the conflict, addressing the humanitarian crisis, and strategizing for the post-war landscape. Washington is keen on enlisting the collective involvement of regional countries, including Turkey, in the reconstruction, governance, and potentially security initiatives in the Gaza Strip, currently under the administration of Hamas. Notably, the revised death toll from the October attack on Israel stands at 1,139, underscoring the gravity of the situation and the pressing need for concerted international efforts.

Conclusion

The high-stakes meeting between US and Turkish officials in Istanbul, along with the upcoming diplomatic engagements across the Middle East, underscores the shared commitment to address the complexities surrounding the Gaza conflict. With a focus on de-escalating tensions, alleviating the humanitarian crisis, and preparing for the post-war landscape, these diplomatic efforts underscore the imperative of inclusive and collaborative approaches in seeking sustainable resolutions to the protracted conflict in the region.
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