Antony Blinken begins his visit to the Middle East with a “historic” meeting in Israel

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The head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken is in Israel on Sunday, the first stage of a tour of the Middle East and North Africa, for a “historic” meeting, in the Negev desert, with his counterparts from Arab countries having normalized their relations with the Jewish state.

Arrived Saturday evening in Tel Aviv, Antony Blinken begins, Sunday, March 27, his tour of the Middle East and the Maghreb and must meet in the afternoon with his counterparts from Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Bahrain and Egypt in Sde Boker, southern Israel. The meeting was described as “historic” by the head of Israeli diplomacy Yair Lapid.

The Emirates normalized relations with Israel in 2020 under a series of US-brokered agreements known as the “Abraham Accords”. Bahrain and Morocco followed suit.

These agreements broke with decades of Arab consensus conditioning the establishment of relations with Israel with the resolution of the Palestinian question.

Leaving Poland on Saturday, where he was accompanying US President Joe Biden, Antony Blinken will stay in Israel until Monday where he is to meet Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. He must also go to Ramallah for an interview with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinian Question

Palestinians worry about being sidelined in the US-backed effort to strengthen ties between Arab countries and Israel. American support had been greatly reduced under the presidency of Donald Trump.

The Secretary of State wants to show that the United States is not losing interest in the Middle East, even if Washington’s attention seems above all to be turned towards China, and more recently Ukraine.

Read also: Israel’s balancing act against Russia on the war in Ukraine

Antony Blinken will continue his tour on Monday in Algeria then in Morocco, where he will notably meet the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed ben Zayed.

He hopes to obtain support for the efforts of the United States and NATO to counter the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in a context marked by the heavy economic consequences of the war, in particular the surge in energy prices and the threat of a shortage of wheat which could deal a very serious blow to the Arab countries.

Reviving the Iran nuclear deal

Another subject that will be addressed by Antony Blinken: the negotiations in Vienna on Iranian nuclear power. The United States and Iran are currently in the final stages of indirect talks aimed at reviving the 2015 agreement supposed to prevent Tehran from acquiring the atomic bomb, in exchange for the lifting of sanctions which are suffocating the Iranian economy. .

The agreement fell apart after Washington’s unilateral withdrawal in 2018, decided by Donald Trump, and the reinstatement of sanctions against Iran, which in response had gradually freed itself from the limits imposed on its nuclear program.

The conclusion of an agreement, under negotiation between the great powers, is a “matter of days”, said Saturday the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell, while the coordinator of the European Union responsible for supervising the talks with the Iran, Enrique Mora, is expected in the evening in Tehran.

US Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price said on Monday that a deal was “neither imminent nor certain”.

The prospect of such an agreement worries Israel and American allies in the Gulf region who perceive Tehran as a threat.

In February, Naftali Bennett said he feared that the agreement would not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Tehran, for its part, denies wanting to acquire the atomic bomb.

With AFP

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