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Monday 17th January 2022 / 14 Jamadilakhir 1443

US, Egypt working closely to reinforce Gaza ceasefire: Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he steps off his plane upon arrival in Cairo, Egypt. Source: Reuters

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he steps off his plane upon arrival in Cairo, Egypt. Source: Reuters

CAIRO: Egypt and the United States said they would work together to reinforce a ceasefire between Israel and Palestine as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Cairo and Amman on a regional tour.

Egypt has longstanding relations with both sides in the conflict and played a key role in brokering the ceasefire after 11 days of violence, in coordination with the United States.

“We’ve had in Egypt a real and effective partner in dealing with the violence, bringing it to a close, relatively quickly,” Blinken said in Cairo after meeting with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

The United States and Egypt were now “working closely together build something positive”, he said. Egypt, Blinken said, is vital to shared aspirations for Palestinians and Israelis to “live in safety and security to enjoy equal measures of freedom, opportunity and dignity”.

Egyptian mediation in the conflict has raised questions whether Cairo might now feel under less U.S. pressure over its crackdown on political dissent that has steadily intensified in recent years.

Asked about the matter at a press conference later in the Jordanian capital Amman, Blinken said he had a “lengthy discussion” with Sisi on Cairo’s human rights record and the issue of detained American citizens.

“I think the fact that we had a lengthy exchange on that with President Sisi is a reflection of the fact that it remains very much on the agenda with Egypt,” Blinken said. Sisi has said there are no political prisoners in Egypt and that stability and security are paramount.

Blinken said he also discussed Egypt’s water needs and the importance of finding a diplomatic solution to the giant Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Egypt regards the dam as a potentially existential threat as the largely arid country relies on the Nile for as much as 90% of its fresh water.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman. Source: Reuters

Gaza Aid

Blinken arrived in Egypt after stops in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Tuesday, when he pledged that the United States would provide new aid to help rebuild the Gaza Strip, including $5.5 million in disaster relief and nearly $33 million for the UN Palestinian aid agency.

Speaking in Amman, he said Washington intended to ensure that the Palestinian group Hamas, which rules Gaza and is listed by Washington as a terrorist organisation, did not benefit from humanitarian aid.

“In the coming days I’ll be consulting broadly with Gulf countries and other partners to ensure we all contribute to recovery, stability and the reduction of tensions,” he said.

Yehya Al-Sinwar, the Hamas chief in Gaza, said the group welcomed Arab and international efforts to rebuild the enclave. Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza and has security contacts with Hamas, is likely to have a role in channelling aid.

During the fighting, Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and its Sinai Peninsula in order to provide medical aid and evacuate the wounded. It also sent a security delegation to Israel and Gaza to help bolster the ceasefire.

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