US's Blinken to travel to Israel, occupied West Bank, Morocco and Algeria

US's Blinken to travel to Israel, occupied West Bank, Morocco and Algeria
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to travel across the Middle East and North Africa this weekend and early next week. The official will go to Israel, the occupied West Bank, Morocco and Algeria.
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'The secretary will emphasize to all foreign leaders he meets that the US stands in solidarity with' Ukraine, said the State Department [source: Getty]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Israel, the occupied West Bank, Morocco and Algeria over March 26-30 to discuss the Ukraine war, Israeli-Palestinian relations and Iran, the State Department announced on Thursday.

Blinken will meet separately with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on the first stage of the trip, and while in Morocco he will also meet the UAE's de facto ruler Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

Discussions will include "the Russian government's war on Ukraine, Iran's destabilising activities, the Abraham Accords and normalisation agreements with Israel, Israeli-Palestinian relations, and preserving the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," State Department Spokesman Ned Price said.

The trip comes as the United States is close to reaching an agreement with Iran to restore the 2015 accord limiting Tehran's nuclear development program in return for removing sanctions on the country.

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In February, Bennett said he was "deeply troubled" by the prospect of a new nuclear deal, which Israel fears would not prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

The meeting in Morocco comes as the United Arab Emirates displayed growing political influence around the region, showing an open door to Israel but also maintaining steady relations with Iran.

Washington expressed outrage last week Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a surprise visit to the UAE.

With the UAE becoming the first Arab state that Assad has visited since the Syrian civil war, Abu Dhabi continues to lead efforts from within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to shore up the Damascus regime.

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Analysts said the surprising meeting was a signal of growing tensions between the UAE and US, particularly over pressure from the White House on Gulf states to increase their oil production following Russia's invasion. 

In Morocco, Blinken will also meet with his counterpart Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

In Algeria, he will see President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra for talks on regional security and commercial relations.

Algeria is a leading supplier of natural gas to Europe, playing a crucial role after Russia's invasion of Ukraine last month halted the opening of a new large natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.