LONDON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday held talks with Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani about the latest developments in the Gaza crisis.
“The secretary expressed appreciation for Qatar’s critical efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas and the recent humanitarian pause in Gaza,” said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.
Both officials “reiterated the importance of preventing the conflict from spreading, and committed to continuing close coordination on ongoing efforts to facilitate the safe return of all remaining hostages while sustaining humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza,” he added.
Sheikh Mohammed said that Doha and its mediation partners remain committed to the continuing efforts to restore calm in Gaza, leading to a permanent ceasefire. But he added that the resumption of the Israeli bombardment of the territory following the end of the recent humanitarian pause is complicating mediation efforts and exacerbating the humanitarian catastrophe in the besieged enclave.
He also stressed the need to open up sustainable humanitarian corridors to help deliver aid to Palestinians in Gaza, and to provide the necessary protection for relief convoys.
The prime minister reiterated his country’s condemnation of all forms of violence that involve the targeting of civilians, and said that the killing innocent civilians, especially women and children, and the practice of collective punishment are not acceptable in any circumstances.
The two officials also reaffirmed the strength and importance of the US-Qatar relationship, Miller added.
The meeting took place in Washington before Blinken met a delegation from a joint Arab League-Organization of Islamic Cooperation contact group, which was on a rare mission to the US in an effort to persuade the Biden administration to drop its opposition to a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
The US subsequently vetoed the resolution during a vote at the UN in New York on Friday. The Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee includes ministers from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkiye.