Antony Blinken meets with Saudi prince on Gaza hostages, Israel war

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) meets with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Monday. Photo by Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal PalaceEPA-EFE
1 of 3 | Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) meets with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Monday. Photo by Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal PalaceEPA-EFE

Feb. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Monday with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman on a four-day Middle East trip aimed at freeing the remaining hostages in Gaza and seeking an extended pause in the Israel-Hamas war.

In Riyadh, Blinken "underscored the importance of addressing humanitarian needs in Gaza and preventing further spread of the conflict," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.


Blinken's trip, through Thursday, also plans stops in Egypt, Qatar, Israel and the West Bank. It is his fifth visit to the region since the conflict began Oct. 7.

Discussions between Blinken and Saudi Arabia's next king centered on "regional coordination to achieve an enduring end to the crisis in Gaza that provides lasting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians."


The two spoke about the "urgent need to reduce regional tensions," which include a cessation of Houthi attacks in the Red Sea and "progress on the Yemen peace process."

In talks with U.S. foreign partners, Blinken plans to discuss strategies to free the dozens of hostages still held by Hamas, deliver humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees and contain the war, as fighting has spilled beyond Gaza amid continuing attacks by Iran-backed militants, the State Department said.

Blinken's visit takes place as the United States and Britain launched a second round of airstrikes against Houthi-controlled targets in Yemen as the Iran proxy militia continues to fire on commercial shipping vessels in the Red Sea.

Jerusalem protest calls for release of Gaza hostages

Protesters hold signs and photos of Israeli hostages on Day 118 of their captivity during a demonstration calling for their release in Jerusalem on February 1, 2024. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

A day earlier, the United States launched strikes on militias in Syria and Iraq that killed at least 39 people and injured dozens more in both countries, according to international observers.

U.S. President Joe Biden ordered the retaliatory strikes after three American soldiers were killed and more than 40 other U.S. troops were wounded a week earlier in a drone attack in Jordan near the border with Iraq and Syria.

The United States continues to blame Iran-backed militants for increasing instability in the region, while Iran has denied any connection to recent aggressions.


Blinken's visit is intended to emphasize that "the United States would take appropriate steps to defend its personnel and the right to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea," the State Department said.

The primary goal for Washington is to establish a more integrated, peaceful region that includes lasting security for Israelis and Palestinians, while Blinken previously called for "equal measures of dignity and security."

During his last trip to the Middle East on Jan. 7, Blinken met with Qatari Prime Minister Al Thani, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Jordanian King Abdullah II, with whom he stressed the critical importance of preventing the war from spreading.

"We share a commitment to ensure that the conflict does not expand, and I think we also share a commitment to use the influence, the relationships, the ties that we have with different parties in the region to try to avoid escalation and to deter new fronts from opening," he said at the time.

Since then, new fighting has erupted between Israel and the Lebanese military group Hezbollah as Houthi rebels have escalated attacks on ships in the Red Sea, while militants launch strikes on U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Syria.


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