Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Turkish and Greek leaders on Saturday, marking the beginning of a week-long trip around the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East to discuss the next phases of the ongoing war between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Blinken started his day in Istanbul to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan. Blinken and Erdoğan discussed the war in Gaza, the White House said a press release.
“The Secretary emphasized the need to prevent the conflict from spreading, secure the release of hostages, expand humanitarian assistance and reduce civilian casualties, and work toward broader, lasting regional peace that ensures Israel’s security and advances the establishment of a Palestinian state,” the statement reads.
Fidan demanded the U.S. to back a cease-fire in the conflict, The Associated Press reported, with the foreign minister urging Blinken to begin negotiations with the Israeli government on a two-state solution in the region “as soon as possible.”
The group also discussed the ascension of Sweden into NATO, a process which has been held up by Turkey. Erdoğan demanded that the U.S. approve shipments of F-16 fighter jets in exchange for a vote to allow Sweden in the alliance, which the U.S. agreed to.
The Turkish parliament approved Swedish ascension last month, while the U.S. government has held off on sending jets until Sweden officially joins the alliance.
Blinken also traveled to Crete, an Ionian island of Greece, to meet with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. He will also visit Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt on the trip, returning to the U.S. on Tuesday.
Tensions in the Middle East continue to rise as the Israel-Hamas war nears the three-month mark. Hezbollah threatened to join the conflict this week after a Hamas leader was killed in an Israeli airstrike on Lebanon.
Houthi militants in Yemen have also increased attacks on Red Sea shipping, causing chaos in the commercial space and even threatening U.S. military personnel.
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