By Janet Ekstract ISTANBUL-U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on a two-day visit in Turkiye for talks with Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and said discussions have been productive. Blinken’s comments on his Middle East trip were made in a press briefing on November 6. Blinken said he and Fidan focused on the most crucial issues for Turkiye and the U.S. including Ukraine, Gaza and efforts to expand NATO. He said the U.S. administration is “very pleased” that Turkish President Erdogan signed Sweden’s ratification protocols and that it’s in the Turkish Parliament. On Sweden’s bid, he highlighted that Turkiye and the U.S. have a “shared commitment” to see Sweden’s accession happen
Blinken reiterated how Turkiye has “played a critical role” especially with the Black Sea Grain Initiative, getting food out of Ukraine and supporting Ukraine’s electricity grid. He also said they discussed “our work to strengthen our counterterrorism partnership as well as growing our economic relationship through trade and investment.” The conflict in Gaza was also a top priority with discussions centered on expanding humanitarian assistance and efforts to prevent the conflict spreading. Fidan and Blinken also discussed how to create the right conditions for “a durable, sustainable, lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians.” Blinken said on the humanitarian front that some “good progress” was made and that Ambassador Satterfield is in the region working on that.
The secretary of state added that during his Middle East trip he had some very crucial talks about the roles that actors in the region can play to ensure the Gaza conflict doesn’t spread to other countries. The focus is on the hostages, Blinken said both Americans and Israelis are being held by Hamas and he added that “we’re doing everything possible to bring them home.” Blinken said the one consistent remark he’s heard from leaders he met in the region is the need for America to play a leading role with diplomacy to make progress on the varying aspects of the conflict. When asked if he had really made progress on a humanitarian ceasefire, Blinken emphasized that the situation is a “work in progress” and that the important conversations he had with leaders focused on their influence in making sure the crisis doesn’t go further. Blinken reiterated that his team is “intensely focused on” making progress with getting hostages out of Gaza. He said what’s happening in the West Bank is crucial and that his team has voiced their concerns on extremist violence in this region. He said “we’re watching very closely to make sure that that happens.” He said that partners in the region should and can use their influence to assist in getting the hostages released and that they should use their relationships with respective leaders to that end. After his visit in Turkiye ends, Blinken has meetings in Japan and South Korea to strengthen its ties in the Indo-Pacific region.
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