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Blinken meets Saudi Crown Prince, calls for pressure on Hamas to release hostages

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed for international pressure on Hamas during a high-stakes meeting with Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday.

The discussion, which took place at the royal’s farm residence in the Riyadh area, lasted nearly an hour and focused on the escalating conflict in the Middle East.

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Describing the meeting as “very productive,” Blinken reiterated that the “US has Israel’s back, no matter what”. He said that the ongoing situation in Israel is a “difficult and very tenuous time for the region” in the wake of the deadly attack by Hamas.

Blinken “highlighted the United States’ unwavering focus on halting terrorist attacks by Hamas, securing the release of all hostages and preventing the conflict from spreading,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Speaking with the media after the meeting, Blinken said that Israel has the right to defend itself against these attacks from Hamas and to try to do what it can to ensure this never happens again.

The two leaders, Antony Blinken and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, jointly affirmed their dedication to protecting civilian populations and fostering regional stability across the Middle East and beyond.

Crown Prince Mohammed conveyed Riyadh’s ongoing diplomatic efforts to mitigate the crisis and establish peace, involving dialogues with regional leaders, including Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

He also reiterated Saudi Arabia’s condemnation of attacks on civilians and vital interests that profoundly affect their daily lives. The Crown Prince underscored the need for Palestinians to achieve their legitimate rights and secure a just and lasting peace.

Blinken has been on a regional tour after the incursion by Hamas fighters into Israel from the blockaded Gaza Strip on October 7. The attack resulted in a significant loss of life, with the death toll nearing 3000.

Before the war erupted, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed had shown optimism over US-led diplomacy aimed at normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Saudi-Israel normalization efforts were temporarily halted, even as Blinken suggested that the Hamas attack has influenced the pause.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the custodian of Islam’s two holiest sites, sought recognition for its historic cooperation with Israel. Saudi Arabia has also sought security guarantees from the United States, a long-standing partner and a significant consumer of its oil.

Nonetheless, Crown Prince Mohammed remains a figure of contention in the US due to allegations linking him to the 2018 killing and dismemberment of US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Riyadh has consistently denied these accusations, attributing the incident to rogue operatives.

US President Joe Biden, who previously vowed to isolate the kingdom, generated controversy during his visit to Saudi Arabia last year when he exchanged a friendly fist-bump with Crown Prince Mohammed.

The discussions between Blinken and the Crown Prince also extended to the situation in Yemen, where an uneasy peace endures between the Saudi-backed government and Iranian-backed Huthi rebels.

The leaders also addressed the ongoing mediation efforts in Sudan, where Saudi Arabia and the United States have collaborated to facilitate negotiations among warring factions, although progress has been limited.

Following the talks in Riyadh, Blinken’s regional tour continues with a visit to Egypt, marking his sixth stop in the Arab world. The objective remains to exert pressure on Hamas and contain the escalating conflict.

Edited By:

Aishwarya Dakhore

Published On:

Oct 16, 2023

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Image Credit / Source: News Wire