Jordan's King Abdullah presses Blinken for Gaza ceasefire, aid deliveries
Jordan's king urged the top United States diplomat on Sunday to push for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and an end to the humanitarian crisis brought by three months of Israeli siege and bombardment, the royal palace said.
King Abdullah II made the remarks to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is on a Middle East tour aiming to ensure the Gaza war does not spread.
King Abdullah warned Blinken against "the catastrophic repercussions of continuation of the aggression against Gaza, underlining the necessity of ending the tragic humanitarian crisis" there, a statement from the royal palace said.
The king reiterated "the important role of the United States in bringing pressure for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, protection of civilians, and guaranteeing delivery" of medical and humanitarian aid.
Washington has twice exercised its veto at the United Nations Security Council over ceasefire calls, drawing outrage in the Arab world, and Blinken has bypassed Congress to rush weapons to Israel. The US has also maintained military aid to Israel, including US-made weapons.
Blinken and other US officials have, however, become increasingly vocal about the need for Israel to protect civilians in Gaza, where the health ministry says 22,835 people have been killed since 7 October, with a further 58,416 injured.
Blinken, who is seeking to get more aid into besieged Gaza, visited the World Food Programme's regional coordination warehouse near the Jordanian capital.
Inside the warehouse, stocked with pallets of canned food aid, the senior UN official in Jordan, Sheri Ritsema-Anderson, described the situation in Gaza as unlike anything she had seen during 15 years in the Middle East.
It is "catastrophic," she told reporters.
Blinken said "it is imperative that we maximise assistance to people in need", by getting the aid in and distributing it effectively.
"We'll be working on that as well in the days to come," he said at the warehouse.
King Abdullah, whose country signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, also reaffirmed the need for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian question and underlined Jordan's "total rejection" of any forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
Washington also insists on a two-state solution, something rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with far-right cabinet members Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich calling for Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza to leave.
Regional tensions have soared since Tuesday when a strike in a Beirut stronghold of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, a Hamas ally, killed Hamas's deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri. A US Defense Department official has told AFP that Israel carried out the strike.
Blinken arrived in Jordan from Turkey and Greece, where he said there is "real concern" over the Israel-Lebanon border, which even before the Arouri strike had seen regular exchanges of fire largely between Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, and Israeli forces.
"We want to do everything possible to make sure that we don't see escalation there" and to avoid an "endless cycle of violence", Blinken said.
The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell carried a similar message on a visit to Beirut Saturday.
"It is imperative to avoid regional escalation in the Middle East. It is absolutely necessary to avoid Lebanon being dragged into a regional conflict," Borrell said.
Blinken was also travelling on Sunday to the Gulf emirate of Qatar and to Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.