U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to travel to the Middle East next week, where he will pay official visits to Israel, the West Bank, Morocco and Algeria between March 26-30 in meetings that will focus on a range of regional and global priorities.
The implications of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Iran’s destabilizing activities along with the Abraham Accords, the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are on Blinken’s agenda, according to the State Department.
“During the course of his trip, the secretary will emphasize to all of the foreign leaders he meets that the United States stands in solidarity with the government and people of Ukraine in the face of the Kremlin’s aggression,” the statement read. “We will continue to work closely with our allies and partners to impose further costs on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his enablers if Putin does not change course.”
Blinken will start his trip in Israel and the West Bank. In Israel, he will meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Israeli President Isaac Herzog. The secretary is expected to underscore the unwavering U.S. commitment to Israel’s security, engage on Israeli-Palestinian issues and discuss regional and global challenges with his counterparts in government.
In his meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, Blinken will likely emphasize the importance of strengthening U.S.-Palestinian relations and advancing freedom, security and prosperity for the Palestinian people.
Blinken's visit is taking place as Israel and the Palestinian Authority brace for a potentially contentious month of April during which Passover, Ramadan and Easter coincide. Concerns for a possible security escalation – especially around Jerusalem and the Temple Mount – is running high. Jordan's King Abdullah II is also expected to visit Ramallah soon to meet Abbas in an attempt to contain a possible deterioration of relations, according to Israel’s Kan Channel.
In Morocco, Blinken will meet with Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita to exchange views on regional issues and bilateral cooperation, as well as advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms.
While Blinken is not expected to visit Gulf countries during his trip to the region, he is slated to meet with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Rabat. Axios reported that the secretary’s original itinerary included stops in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but as the dates of the trip kept changing, those visits were dropped.
The UAE, like Saudi Arabia, has so far resisted appeals from the U.S. to pump more oil and increase supply to offset a spike in global energy prices, spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Reports indicated that UAE and Saudi leaders refused to take calls from U.S. President Joe Biden in recent weeks, however, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki insisted that such reports were “inaccurate.”
The secretary will conclude his trip in Algiers, Algeria, where he will hold meetings with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra. Algeria has recently expressed readiness to provide gas supplies to Europe as an alternative to Russia.
Blinken and Biden are currently in Europe attending a gathering of NATO leaders. Biden arrived for an emergency heads of state meeting in Brussels with the main goal of coordinating new sanctions against Russian officials.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.