Blinken Meets Turkish Counterpart Who Asked For Unconditional Ceasefire

As US State Secretary Antony Blinken continues a challenging Middle East tour, aimed at easing regional tensions over the Israel-Hamas war, Turkey has asked for an unconditional ceasefire, Al Jazeera reported.

Blinken met his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, for almost two-and-a-half-hours, on Monday morning in Ankara, but there was no joint statement, however, according to Al Jazeera they discussed several issues, particularly the war in Gaza and an exchange of prisoners between Hamas and Israel.

The US tried to convince Turkey to put more pressure on Hamas and make it release the captives. But Turkey was firm on its stance, stating that the prisoner release should be mutual, where Hamas releases captives and Israel releases Palestinian prisoners. Turkey also asked for an unconditional ceasefire and said there should be an international mechanism to observe the ceasefire, which Ankara would be the guarantor for, as reported by Al Jazeera.

Following their meeting, prior to boarding the plane, Blinken told reporters that he had a “very good, lengthy, productive conversation” with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Hakan Fidan.

“We discussed the crises in Gaza, including the efforts to significantly expand humanitarian assistance to people in need…and what we can do to set the conditions for a durable, sustainable lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” he said.

“Turkey has played a critical role, over the last couple of years…We discussed our work to strengthen our counter-terrorism partnership to work as well at growing our economic relationship through trade and investment,” Blinken added.

Secretary Blinken’s visit to Turkey follows a series of strained meetings with Arab leaders in Iraq, Palestine, and Jordan over the weekend. Arab and Muslim leaders have voiced their frustration over Washington’s unwavering support for Israel during its month long assault on Gaza, which has resulted in the deaths of nearly 10,000 people, including more than a third who are children.

While Washington has advocated for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting, it has not fully endorsed the widespread call for a complete ceasefire.

Blinken’s mission, his second to the region since the war began, has encountered limited support for his diplomatic efforts. Israel has resisted the US push for a pause in the hostilities, while Arab and Muslim nations have insisted on an immediate ceasefire to alleviate the escalating casualties in Gaza, as reported by Al Jazeera.

Notably, Turkey, a strategic US ally despite occasional foreign policy disagreements, has been one of the region’s most vocal critics of Israel, accusing it of acting as a “war criminal” and committing a “massacre.”

Earlier, Ankara recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly saying he had “written off” dealing with Benjamin Netanyahu. Erdogan has also criticised Western powers for their perceived double standards, highlighting their response to the Ukraine-Russia conflict while remaining relatively quiet about the loss of innocent lives in Gaza.

During Blinken’s visit, Turkey’s frustration with Washington was evident. In what seemed like a snub, President Erdogan chose to travel across northeastern Turkey, leaving Blinken to meet with the Turkish foreign minister.

Hours before Blinken’s arrival, hundreds of demonstrators protested outside an airbase hosting US troops in southeastern Turkey, leading to confrontations with the police involving tear gas and water canisters.

As the Gaza conflict continues, President Erdogan has sought to position Turkey as a mediator to halt the violence and advance the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

He said that Turkey is “working behind the scenes” with regional allies to broker a ceasefire and ensure a continuous flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

“Our priority is to establish a humanitarian ceasefire quickly,” Erdogan said on Friday, adding that Turkey was working on “new mechanisms that will guarantee the security of everyone, regardless of whether they are Muslims, Christians or Jews”.

“Our efforts to lay the groundwork for an international peace conference continue,” Al Jazeera quoted Erdogan as saying. (ANI)

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