Blinken presses new Gaza plan in calls with Saudi, Jordan, Turkey FMs

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken sought Friday to press Hamas to accept a new Gaza ceasefire plan in talks with the top diplomats of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

In telephone calls from his plane as he returned from a NATO meeting in Prague, Blinken “emphasised that Hamas should accept the deal without delay,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Blinken “underscored that the proposal is in the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the long-term security of the region”, Miller said.

US President Joe Biden earlier announced the surprise proposal which would begin with a six-week complete ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from populated areas of Gaza.

Hamas would in return release hostages.

The two sides would then negotiate a longer-term deal aimed at ending the war. Biden said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported the deal.

Hamas was informed of the proposal through Qatar, a key mediator which maintains relations both with the militants and the United States.

Blinken in his shuttle diplomacy in the region has invested time in involving Saudi Arabia, hoping that the prospect of Israel normalising relations with the kingdom – guardian of Islam’s two holiest sites – will encourage moderation in Netanyahu’s far-right government.

Normalisation is highly controversial across the Middle East and Palestinians view it as a betrayal of their national cause.

Jordan is a key US partner in the region which is especially sensitive to the war due to its large Palestinian population and its own relations with Israel.

Blinken had met just one day earlier in Prague with the Turkish foreign minister, Hakan Fidan.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a firm critic of Israel, has met Hamas leaders, and welcomed Hamas members for medical treatment.

But Turkey is also a NATO ally and one of the few Muslim-majority nations with ties with Israel.

Israel’s war on Gaza has so far killed at least 36,284 people, according to the Palestinian territory’s health ministry.

A Hamas-led 7 October attack resulted in the death of 1,189 people in Israel, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Out of 252 people taken hostage that day, 121 are still being held inside the Gaza Strip, including 37 who the Israeli army says are dead.

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