Blinken works with Turkey's Erdogan on Gaza, NATO expansion

Blinken works with Turkey's Erdogan on Gaza, NATO expansion

Washington's top diplomat will discuss the Gaza war with Turkey's mercurial leader on Saturday before flying to Crete to address Greek concerns about the looming sale of US fighter jets to Ankara.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Istanbul late Friday for the first leg of a tour that includes visits to Israel and the West Bank.

Blinken's fourth crisis visit since the start of the Israel-Hamas war three months ago comes amid growing concerns that the conflict could engulf the entire Middle East.

A senior U.S. official said Mr. Blinken intends to press Israel to increase aid to the Palestinians and move to a combat phase that would allow displaced people to begin returning.

The official added that much of the talks with Arab leaders will focus on containing the violence and considering how to govern the region once the fighting ends.

Istanbul had been a stronghold for Hamas's political leadership until the attack on Israel killed around 1,140 people and sparked retaliatory attacks, but the Gaza Health Ministry claimed 22,600 lives and killed 22,600 people, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Most of them are women and children.

Turkey has asked Hamas leaders to leave after some of them were caught on video celebrating the worst attack in Israel's history.

strident critic

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has since become one of the Islamic world's harshest critics of the scale of death and destruction occurring in Gaza and of Washington's support for Israel.

President Erdogan compared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler and accused the United States of sponsoring a “genocide” of Palestinians.

He also rejected US pressure to cut off suspected financial flows to Hamas through Turkey and defended Hamas as legitimately chosen “liberators” fighting for their land. did.

The U.S. State Department on Friday awarded $10 million for information about five foreign Hamas agents, three of whom are believed to be based in Turkey, who are said to be helping finance Iranian-backed organizations. announced a bounty.

Turkey responded this week by detaining 34 people on suspicion of planning attacks against Palestinians and spying for Israel's Mossad intelligence agency.

After US President Joe Biden had his first phone call with the Turkish leader since the start of the war last month, Erdogan began toning down his harshest rhetoric.

The call helped propel NATO member Turkey's glacial progress in accepting Sweden into the U.S.-led defense organization in the wake of Russia's war against Ukraine.

A parliamentary committee approved Sweden's application at the end of December.

Some analysts believe Mr. Biden's call also secured a scheduled meeting between Mr. Blinken and Mr. Erdogan. It is noteworthy that the Turkish leader left the capital during Blinken's last visit two months ago.


Blinken hopes to get assurances from Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and Erdogan that a vote in the full chamber will be held soon.

New members require the approval of all NATO countries to join the defense bloc.

NATO had already doubled the length of its border with Russia when Turkey relented last year and accepted Sweden's neighbor Finland into the alliance.

President Erdoğan successfully used Turkey's veto to urge Sweden to take a tougher stance against Stockholm's Kurdish group, which Ankara considers “terrorists.”

He also wants to make it a condition of Sweden's approval for the United States to deliver 40 American-made F-16 fighters and nearly 80 modernization kits to Turkey's aging air force.

The Biden administration has officially supported the sale, but it has not been able to overcome resistance in Congress from lawmakers who have expressed alarm over Turkey's position vis-à-vis Sweden and past military conflicts with historic rival Greece.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said this week: “While we have made clear that we believe the sale should not be tied to Sweden's membership in NATO, there are members of Congress who have a different opinion, and they believe that the sale should not be tied to Sweden's membership in NATO.'' “

Blinken will travel to the Greek island of Crete later Saturday to meet with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Greece has fiercely resisted U.S. jet sales, citing a long-standing territorial dispute with Turkey in the energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean region.

Athens aims to buy more advanced F-35 jets from the United States in bulk to counter the perceived Turkish threat.


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