The gulf between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his interlocutors on ending the war in Gaza and the risk of it escalating showed itself in Qatar yesterday during a joint press conference between Blinken and Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. Al Thani said that “we believe that we need to contain this crisis as soon as possible and to reach a ceasefire in Gaza which will also help on de-escalating the—other region, and despite (sic) we look for sustainable solutions for peace in the region.” Later, in response to a question, Al Thani stressed that “we believe that the solution is to stop this war in Gaza, and we believe that will have a positive implication on our whole region.”
Blinken, on the other hand, did not speak so clearly about ending the war, nor did he link the war in Gaza with the risk of the conflict spreading. “We share a commitment to ensure that the conflict does not expand, and I think we also share a commitment to use the influence, the relationships, the ties that we have with different parties in the region to try to avoid escalation and to deter new fronts from opening,” he said. He stressed that in his meetings over the last two days, “We’ve discussed ongoing efforts to better protect civilians in Gaza and to get more humanitarian assistance to them, and to get the remaining hostages out and home with their loved ones.”
Al Thani confirmed that negotiations on further releases of hostages are underway but that they face considerable difficulties. “Yes, we go through challenges, ups and downs, through all the process,” he said. “And of course, having … the senior leader of Hamas being killed is something that can affect such a complicated process. Yet we are not giving up; we are moving forward. We are continuing our discussions with the parties and trying to achieve as soon as possible an agreement that can bring assistance for humanitarian relief and the release of the hostages.”
Doha wasn’t the only place on Biden’s itinerary where he faced pressure to end the war. Earlier in Amman, Jordan’s King Abdullah II urged Blinken to use Washington’s influence over Israel to press it for an immediate ceasefire, a palace statement said, warning him of the “catastrophic repercussions” of Israel’s continued military campaign, reported Reuters.