On Nov. 2, 2023, Secretary of State Antony Blinken headed to the Middle East for consultations with regional leaders on the war between Israel and Hamas. He worked to prevent the conflict from spreading, secure the release of hostages, and increase the volume of aid entering Gaza. The following are excerpted remarks from each of the stops on his tour.
In Tel Aviv, Israel on Nov. 3, 2023
Comments to the press: “We need to continue to prevent escalation of this conflict, its spread to other areas and other theaters. The United States has and we will continue to respond to attacks by Iran’s proxies to defend our personnel in the region, personnel who are here in Iraq and in Syria to help prevent the resurgence of ISIS. We will do what is necessary to deter and, as I said, respond to any attacks.
“Partners throughout the Middle East and beyond have a critical role to play in averting escalation, and that will be a major focus of my conversations throughout this trip.”
“With regard to Lebanon, with regard to Hizballah, with regard to Iran, we have been very clear from the outset that we are determined that there not be a second or third front opened in this conflict. President Biden said on day one to anyone thinking of opening a second front, taking advantage of the situation, don’t. And we’ve backed up those words not only with work that we’ve done with many partners in the region to reinforce that message. but with practical deeds, including the deployment of two aircraft carriers battlegroups to the region; including with action that we’ve taken for example against missiles coming from Yemen in the direction of Israel, shooting them down; including as well with strikes that we took in response to multiple attacks on our personnel in Iraq and Syria who are there, as I said earlier, to try to prevent the resurgence in the region of ISIL, of Daesh. We remain absolutely determined in that effort. And I’m not going to get into hypothetical situations, but all I can say is we’re committed to deterring aggression from any part and we’ll take the steps necessary to deal with it.”
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) November 3, 2023
In Ramallah, the West Bank on Nov. 5, 2023
Official readout: Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met today in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The Secretary reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance and resumption of essential services in Gaza and made clear that Palestinians must not be forcibly displaced. Secretary Blinken and President Abbas discussed efforts to restore calm and stability in the West Bank, including the need to stop extremist violence against Palestinians and hold those accountable responsible. Secretary Blinken reiterated that the United States remains committed to advancing equal measures of dignity and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike. The Secretary also expressed the commitment of the United States to working toward the realization of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
In Baghdad, Iraq on Nov. 5, 2023
Comments to the press: “I had a good, productive, candid meeting with Prime Minister al-Sudani, and there were really two areas of focus for me in that meeting. The first was to reaffirm our commitment to our partnership with Iraq. We've made tremendous progress with Iraq in recent years, particularly working with the Iraqi Government on everything from economic reform to energy independence to helping to strengthen its institutions, building respect for human rights, and not only the security aspect of the relationship – all of these different aspects. We call that 360 degrees, and we're committed to it. So we did a – we had a discussion about that and the progress we’ve made.
“At the same time, it was very important to send a very clear message to anyone who might seek to take advantage of the conflict in Gaza to threaten our personnel here or anywhere else in the region: Don’t do it. I made very clear that the attacks, the threats coming from the militia that are aligned with Iran are totally unacceptable and we will take every necessary step to protect our people. We’re not looking for conflict with Iran – we’ve made that very clear – but we’ll do what’s necessary to protect our personnel, be they military or civilian.
“Prime Minister al-Sudani has made very clear his condemnation of attacks against – directed at our people, threats at our people, and his determination to do what’s necessary to make sure that that doesn’t happen.
“So we had a good, as I said, candid, important conversation. More broadly, we’re working very hard to make sure that the conflict in Gaza does not escalate, does not spread to other places – whether it’s here, whether it’s elsewhere in the region. This is the very vital and urgent work of American diplomacy, and that’s what we’ve been engaged in as well throughout this trip.”
“Well, first with regard to Iraq, Prime Minister Sudani has spoken out clearly. In fact, he made an important statement about a week ago, October 23rd, condemning these attacks and making clear the imperative that they stop. And in addition he is working with his own security forces and others to take the necessary action to deal with these attacks and to seek to prevent them. So we talked about that. I can’t get into specifics. “But this is a matter of Iraqi sovereignty. No country wants to have militia groups engaged in violent activity that’s clearly against the interests of Iraq and its own sovereignty as well as against our interests. So I think we have a shared purpose and commitment in trying to make sure that these attacks don’t happen.
“And we also share the interest – and an interest that’s shared with virtually everyone in the region – to make sure that the conflict in Gaza doesn’t spread to other places, whether it’s here or elsewhere in the region. So everyone is looking to take the necessary steps, use their authority, use their influence to try to make sure that this stops and doesn’t happen.”
In Ankara, Türkiye on Nov. 6, 2023
Comments to the press: “We’ve also had very important conversations throughout this trip with countries in the region on the role that everyone can play in making sure that the conflict doesn’t expand, doesn’t spread to other countries.”
“I think we’ve had important conversations – and more than conversations, we’re making sure that the different influence and relationships that countries in the region have, including the countries that I visited or spoke to, that they’re using that to make sure that this conflict and crisis doesn’t spread. And that’s critical, and I think countries are very much engaged in trying to make sure that that doesn’t happen. So that’s important. And sometimes the absence of something bad happening may not be the most obvious evidence of progress, but it is.”