An unprecedented meeting in Israel between Anthony Blinken and Arab ministers, including Bourita
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and the chief diplomats of Israel and four Arab countries will hold an unprecedented meeting on Israeli soil on March 28 to discuss Middle East peace and Iran’s nuclear program.
This summit took place in the town of Sde Boker, the kibbutz in the Negev desert (south) where the remains of the founder of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, lie, the day after the attack claimed by the jihadist Islamic State (EI). Killed two policemen in Hadera, northern Israel.
At the start of his tour on Sunday, Anthony Blinken spoke in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, before meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank. He then dined at Sde Boker with his counterparts from Israel, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, four Arab countries that have normalized their relations with the Jewish state.
Early Monday, Bennett announced that he had tested positive for Covid-19. According to his office, “the prime minister is in good shape and will continue his schedule as planned from his home.”
The State Department then said that Mr Blinken was the only member of the US delegation who was in “close contact” with Mr Bennett and that he would follow recommendations by wearing “a mask and performing appropriate tests”.
“Have you not forgotten anyone?”
Before meeting with his Arab counterparts, Mr. Blinken took a jog near the hotel where the VIPs are staying, an AFP photographer said on the spot.
A few people protested in front of the hotel, holding banners in Hebrew, Arabic and English that read: “Did you not forget anyone? Referring to the Palestinians.”
The latter, from the secular Fatah movement of Mahmoud Abbas to the Islamists of Hamas, criticized the normalization in 2020 between the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco with Israel, believing that this should take place only after the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
If the Palestinians do not participate in the Negev meeting, Jordan’s King Abdullah II is scheduled to meet Mr. Abbas on Monday in Ramallah in the West Bank, the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967.
Egypt was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994.
Abbas on Sunday denounced the “double standards” of the West, quickly invoking international law to impose sanctions on Russia, which invaded Ukraine, but not on Israel for its “crimes” in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The meeting in Sde Boker should revolve around the issue of returning to the 2015 agreement that is supposed to prevent Tehran from obtaining the atomic bomb, in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.
The United States and Iran are in the final stages of indirect talks aimed at reviving the 2015 agreement that collapsed after the unilateral U.S. withdrawal in 2018 and after Tehran gradually retaliated and freed itself from the restrictions imposed on its nuclear program.
Anthony Blinken asserted Sunday that the United States was “determined” to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Israel, which experts consider the only nuclear power in the Middle East, accuses Iran of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, which the country denies.
Mr. Blinken’s visit to Israel was marked by an attack on the evening of Sunday, 27 March, in Hadera, in which two Israeli policemen, Yazan Falah and Cheryl Abukarat, 19, were killed and many more were injured.
Police killed the two assailants, two Israeli Arabs, and arrested five suspects. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the pro-Iranian Lebanese movement Hezbollah welcomed the attack.
Last week, four Israelis were killed in a stabbing and ramming attack in the Negev. According to Israel, in 2016 the attacker was sentenced to four years in prison for planning to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS.
“A second attack by ISIS supporters in Israel is forcing security forces to adapt quickly to the new threat. I call on citizens to continue to be vigilant. Together, we can defeat this enemy as well,” Bennett said.
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