US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was committed to reforming the Palestinian Authority in a way that could “reunite” Gaza and the occupied West Bank under its leadership.
In a related development, Egypt and Jordan warned against any Israeli reoccupation in the Gaza Strip Blinken was speaking to reporters in Bahrain after meeting with Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah during a tour of the Middle East aimed at preventing an escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
“We talked […] about the importance of reforming the Palestinian Authority, policy and governance so that it can effectively take responsibility for Gaza… so that Gaza and the West Bank can be reunited under a Palestinian leadership,” he said.
“It’s very clear to me for president Abbas that he’s prepared to move forward and engage in all of these efforts.”
Blinken said Abbas was committed to reforming the Palestinian Authority.
“What I take away from this meeting is that he is committed to that and is very much prepared to move forward,” Blinken told AFP in response to a question about Abbas’s commitment to reforming the PA.
Egypt and Jordan while warning against any Israeli reoccupation in the Gaza Strip appealed for the uprooted residents to be allowed to return to their homes as the Arab countries’ leaders met Abbas.
While Israel presses forward with a military campaign it says will last for months, Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah, and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also restated their rejection of any plans to displace Palestinians from their lands — a risk Egypt says has grown as Israel’s war against Hamas has driven most Gaza residents southward towards the Egyptian border.
Jordan has been concerned by increased instability and attacks on Palestinians by Jewish settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, with which it shares a border.
The international community needed to show a “decisive stance” to push for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, a statement issued by Sisi’s office said.
The three leaders confirmed “a complete rejection of any attempt to reoccupy parts of Gaza, and the need to enable its people to return to their homes”, the statement added.
Ahead of their summit at Aqaba in Jordan, Abbas met Blinken.
“The Arabs are telling the Americans the priority now is to get a ceasefire and push Israel to allow Palestinians to go back to northern Gaza, and ease the overcrowding near (the southern town of) Rafah, which is alarming both the Egyptians and the Jordanians,” a Jordanian official said.
The Western-backed Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank and held talks with Israel on a Palestinian state before they collapsed in 2014. Hamas has ruled in Gaza since 2007 and is sworn to Israel’s destruction.
Talks on prisoners
Egypt, along with Qatar, has separately been trying to mediate between Israel and Hamas to negotiate a new ceasefire in Gaza and the release of Israeli prisoners that Hamas captured in its surprise Oct 7 incursion into Israel.
That mediation has resumed following a pause after the killing last week of Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut, and an Israeli delegation visited Egypt on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of a long-term ceasefire in return for the freeing of prisoners, two Egyptian security sources said.
Israel has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians in Gaza since launching its campaign to destroy Hamas, after its fighters killed 1,200 Israelis and took 240 prisoners in a cross-border rampage on Oct 7 that triggered the war.