Sunday , 2 April 2023

Blinken stresses countering Iran, affirms need for two-state solution to Netanyahu

Al-Arabia – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Palestinians and Israelis to de-escalate, reaffirmed the necessity of two-state solution for lasting peace and stressed the importance of countering Iran and preventing it from acquiring a nuclear weapon during a visit on Monday to Jerusalem where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Blinken condemned the synagogue attack which killed seven Israelis and was carried out by a Palestinian gunman, and told reporters upon arrival in Tel Aviv it “was more than an attack on individuals. It was also an attack on the universal act of practicing one’s faith. We condemn it in the strongest terms.”

“And we condemn all those who celebrate these and any other acts of terrorism that take innocent lives, no matter who the victim is or what they believe. Calls for vengeance against more innocent victims are not the answer,” Blinken said.

He also called for easing tensions between both sides: “It is the responsibility of everyone to take steps to calm tensions rather than inflame them.”

In a joint press conference with Netanyahu, Blinken addressed several topics: the Iranian threat, US steadfast commitment to Israel’s security, the importance of making the two-state solution vision a reality, as well as the importance of the Abraham Accords and plans to expand them.

Two-state solution

Blinken stressed that the US government has the “enduring goal of Palestinians and Israelis enjoying equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice and dignity.”

He added: “We continue to believe the best way to achieve it is by preserving and then realizing the vision of two states. As I said to the prime minister, anything that moves us away from that vision is in our judgment detrimental to Israel’s long-term security.”

“That’s why we’re urging all sides now to take urgent steps to restore calm, to de-escalate. We want to make sure that there’s an environment in which we can create the conditions start to restore a sense of security for Israelis and Palestinians alike which is of course sorely lacking.”

After the synagogue attack, Netanyahu called for more Israeli citizens to carry guns for protection against street attacks.

Iran

Netanyahu stressed during the joint press conference the importance of countering Iran and preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

He said: “Your visit comes at an important time. It’s a time when many in the international community, I would say most of the international community, have seen the true face of Iran; have seen the barbarism of this regime against its own people. They have seen how it exports aggression beyond its border, and beyond the Middle East. I think there is a common consensus that this regime must not acquire nuclear weapons.”

He added: “We’ve had very good discussions on forging a common policy, on trying to work together to thwart the danger…. Our policy, my policy is to do everything within Israel’s power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. The fact that we and the US are working together is something that is important for this common goal as well.”

Blinken agreed with Netanyahu on the importance of countering Iran’s malign activities in the region and used the opportunity to re-affirm Washington’s condemnation of Tehran supplying Moscow with weapons which are used in the Russian war on Ukraine.

“We agree that Iran must never be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon. And we discussed deepening cooperation to confront and counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and beyond. Just as Iran has long supported terrorists that attack Israelis and others, their regime is now providing drones that Russia is using to kill innocent Ukrainian civilians. In turn, Russia is providing sophisticated weaponries to Iran. It’s a two way street,” Blinken said.

Abraham Accords

Both Blinken and Netanyahu praised the Abraham Accords and the “integration” of Israel into the region and building bridges with Arab countries.

The UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan normalized ties with Israel in 2020 through signing the US-brokered Abraham Accords.

Netanyahu said: “We also see an opportunity of expanding the circle of peace. We intend to deepen the peace we’ve already made through the Abraham Accords. We discussed some of the initiatives that we are considering doing together. But also, to perhaps achieve dramatic breakthroughs that I think could be both historic and enormously significant in our common efforts to bring prosperity, security and peace to this part of the world and beyond,” he did not provide details as to which Arab countries Israel and the US had their sights on next.

“I also believe that expanding the circle of peace, working to close finally the file of the Arab-Israeli conflict I think would also help us achieve a workable solution with our Palestinian neighbors.”

Blinken said: “One of the most effective ways to make Israel more secure is to continue to build bridges in the region and even well beyond the region. That’s why we have worked relentlessly to deepen and broaden the Abraham Accords and other normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states.”

He added: “The prime minister has spoken about our ability to do big things together. Well, Israel’s greater integration in the region is very much one of them. A few years ago, this kind of cooperation would have been unimaginable. Today it is genuinely fostering new opportunities for people across the participating countries to connect, to collaborate… Each of these interactions helps chip away at enduring biases and mistrust.”

“We’re determined to keep building on that progress, on new issues, with new countries, as we work to strengthen the circle of peace.”

Blinken stressed, however, that normalization agreements between Arab countries and Israel were not a substitute to the two-state solution.

“These efforts are not a substitute for progress between Israelis and Palestinians. But as we advance Israel’s integration, we can do so in ways that improve the daily lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. And that is crucial in moving toward our enduring goal of Palestinians and Israelis enjoying equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice and dignity.”

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