Blinken reaffirms two-state solution ahead of Israeli-Palestinian visit – The Jerusalem Post

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he would urge Israelis and Palestinians to calm tensions as he visits on Monday during the worst violence in years, and reaffirmed a long-stalled peace vision as the “only path” forward.

Blinken discussed ongoing efforts to de-escalate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on Monday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Blinken also “noted the importance of unified international support for holding elections in Libya, and underscored the importance of the Framework Political Agreement to the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people,” Price said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday during a three-day visit to the Middle East that comes during a flare-up of violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

In Cairo, Blinken is meeting Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and is expected to address regional issues including attempts to relaunch a political transition in Sudan and the deadlock between rival factions in Libya.

Meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials

Blinken landed in Israel on Monday and urged both sides to take steps to ease a recent spike in tension with the Palestinians.

“It is the responsibility of everyone to take steps to calm tensions rather than inflame them,” Blinken said.

Blinken heads later to Jerusalem, where he will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid concern at home and abroad over the policies of Netanyahu’s new right-wing government.

Blinken will also travel to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Blinken says US will keep pressing Egypt on human rights

The United States will continue to encourage Egypt to take steps on human rights, including freeing more political prisoners and guaranteeing freedom of expression, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Cairo on Monday.

After talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Blinken told reporters that Egypt had taken “important strides” in protecting religious freedoms, empowering women, and releasing some prisoners.

“But the concerns that we have remained and in the spirit of candor and the spirit of the partnership we have, we expressed those very clearly,” Blinken said, adding that he had raised the cases of individual prisoners.

The US official arrived in Cairo on Sunday on a three-day regional tour that coincides with an escalation of violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Blinken said he wanted to strengthen Washington’s strategic partnership with Egypt, a major recipient of US military aid that has helped mediate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the past.

Under Sisi, who as army chief led the 2013 ouster of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, there has been a long crackdown on political dissent that has swept up liberal critics as well as Islamists.

Rights groups say tens of thousands have been detained, with many held in pre-trial detention for long periods.

In recent months, Egypt has released some prominent political prisoners amid steps to address international criticism, though many others remain behind bars and new arrests have been made.

Reforms to pre-trial detention and other law enforcement practices, and protecting the work of civil society, were among the areas where Washington would seek “concrete progress,” Blinken said.

The United States has withheld small amounts of military aid to Cairo, citing a failure to meet human rights conditions, and advocacy groups have pushed for more to be held back.

While in Egypt, Blinken met a group of activists including prominent campaigner Hossam Bahgat.

“He was already well aware of the magnitude of Egypt’s human rights crisis and that many more new political prisoners are detained than those the regime claims to be pardoning,” Bahgat told Reuters after meeting Blinken.

“I think the Biden administration now accepts that two years of engaging Sisi on human rights have not led to much improvement.”

Sisi has argued that security measures over the past decade were needed to stabilize Egypt and that authorities are protecting rights, including by working to provide basic needs such as housing and jobs.

Blinken’s meeting with Sisi also addressed regional issues including attempts to relaunch a political transition in Sudan and to break the deadlock between rival factions in Libya, according to a statement from US State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

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