US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to Israel on Monday, a senior State Department official said, extending his Middle East shuttle diplomacy by a day.
As Israel prepares for a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, the United States works to stop the conflict from spreading.
Israel has vowed to annihilate the militant group Hamas in retaliation for a terror rampage by its gunmen in Israeli towns eight days ago, butchering men, women and children and seizing hostages in the worst attack on civilians in the country’s history.
The top US diplomat arrived in Israel on Thursday and has since visited six Arab countries. He is currently in Egypt and also met with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.
Washington has grown increasingly worried about the fighting spreading across the region and has warned Iran to stay out of it. Blinken has sought the cooperation of Arab allies, as well as China, a country with influence on Tehran, to contain the conflict.
But late on Saturday, Iran warned of “far-reaching consequences” if Israel’s bombardment was not stopped.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Sunday told CBS News that the Biden administration is concerned about Iran and its proxy forces, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah getting involved in the war.
Axios reported on Saturday that Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told UN officials that Iran will have to respond if the Israeli invades the Gaza Strip. The foreign minister, who was in Qatar on Sunday, in an interview told Al Jazeera that if Israel attacks that is Israeli attacks on Gaza do not stop, the conflict can spread to new fronts, and the likelihood of such a development increases each minute.
Before departing for Cairo, Blinken held talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, one of the most powerful leaders of the region, a meeting the top US diplomat described as “very productive.”
In the meeting, the Saudi crown prince stressed the need to find ways to stop the conflict, and respect international law, including by lifting the Israeli blockade on Gaza, Saudi state news agency SPA reported.
“(The crown prince stressed the need to find) a peace path to ensure that the Palestinian people obtain their legitimate rights and achieve just and lasting peace,” SPA said.
A US official said the meeting lasted for just under an hour and took place at the crown prince’s private farm residence.
“The Secretary highlighted the United States’ unwavering focus on halting terrorist attacks by Hamas, securing the release of all hostages, and preventing the conflict from spreading,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.
“The two affirmed their shared commitment to protecting civilians and to advancing stability across the Middle East and beyond,” Miller added.
Blinken on Saturday met Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan in Riyadh. Before their meeting, Blinken said protecting civilians on both sides of the conflict was vital.
“And we’re working together to do exactly that, in particular working on establishing safe areas in Gaza, working on establishing corridors so that humanitarian assistance can reach people who need it.”