Blinken to return to Brussels for talks on Ukraine, Afghanistan

Blinken seeks Israel’s ‘equal’ treatment of Palestinians

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Washington: Secretary of State Anthony Brinken called on Israel to ensure “equal” treatment of Palestinians in Israel on Friday, as the new US administration has cautiously stepped up its efforts to seek a two-State solution.

In a telephone call with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Blinken “emphasized the administration s belief that Israelis and Palestinians should enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity and democracy,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Blinken also committed to “strengthening all aspects of the US-Israel partnership” and voiced support for the Jewish state s agreements over the past year to normalize relations with four more Arab nations.

The call comes amid another spell of political uncertainty in Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu s Likud party securing the most votes but failing to secure a majority in the fourth election in two years.

President Joe Biden, while stressing his support for Israel, has also signalled he will back away from the unwavering support of the right-wing Netanyahu by his predecessor Donald Trump.

The US government has increased its humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. In recent days, it has made it clear that it considers Israel’s control of the West Bank to be an “occupation”.

“We believe when it comes to settlement activity that Israel should refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and that undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution,” Price said Thursday.

Brinken’s predecessor, Mike Pompeo, set a precedent. He said he did not think Israel’s construction on land confiscated in 1967 was illegal. He visited a settlement in the West Bank last year.

Despite this, Brinken has made it clear that the Obama administration will not withdraw some of Trump’s iconic measures, including the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

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