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Blinken meets Arab leaders in diplomatic push over Gaza war

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was holding more talks with Arab leaders on Monday as part of a diplomatic push to stop the war in Gaza spreading further.

Antony Blinken with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of UAE

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was holding more talks with Arab leaders on Monday as part of a diplomatic push to stop the war in Gaza spreading further.

Blinken met Abu Dhabi’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in the United Arab Emirates and was due later on Monday to hold talks in Saudi Arabia with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the oasis town of Al Ula before heading on to Israel.

Blinken visited Jordan and Qatar on Sunday, and sought to reassure Arab officials that the United States opposes the displacement of Palestinians outside Gaza, and instead wants Israel’s Muslim majority neighbors to play a role in the Strip’s future governance.

Blinken is making his fourth trip to the region since Hamas gunmen from Gaza attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, prompting Israel to launch its military offensive against the Palestinian militant group in the coastal enclave.

He is asking states to try to reduce tensions that have already sparked violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and led to Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping lanes. 

Blinken has been joined by U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking as Washington seeks to garner regional support for actions to counter the attacks by the Iran-aligned Houthis on commercial shipping.

Blinken said in Qatar on Sunday that the attacks had disrupted or diverted nearly 20% of global shipping and would make goods including food and fuel more expensive.

"These attacks by the Houthis are hurting people around the world – most of all, the poorest and most vulnerable populations, including in Yemen, including in Gaza," Blinken said. 

The U.S. has struck Houthi vessels and gathered an international coalition of more than 20 countries to participate in efforts to safeguard ships in Red Sea waters near Yemen, much of which is controlled by the Houthis.

The Houthi attacks and the Western response have put new strains on a ceasefire and peace talks that have largely quelled fighting in Yemen more than eight years after a Saudi-led coalition intervened against the Houthi movement.

Blinken is set to end the day in Israel, where he will meet officials on Tuesday.

He said on Sunday he would raise with Israeli officials the importance of protecting civilians in the Gaza conflict and repeated Washington’s objection to comments from right-wing members of Israel’s ruling coalition calling for the resettlement of Palestinians from Gaza.

Reporting by Simon Lewis, Editing by Timothy Heritage

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