Arab foreign ministers discuss Gaza in Riyadh following Blinken visit to the region

By Thomson Reuters Feb 9, 2024 | 6:31 AM

DUBAI (Reuters) – Several Arab foreign ministers discussed the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza at talks in Riyadh, Saudi state media reported on Friday, following a Middle East tour by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that stirred hopes for a long-awaited Gaza truce deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday rejected Hamas’ latest terms for a ceasefire and return of hostages held in the Gaza Strip, but Blinken said there was still room for negotiation toward an agreement.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan called for Thursday’s meeting in Riyadh, which included the foreign ministers of Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates along with the Secretary-General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Hussein al-Sheikh, Saudi state news agency SPA reported.

The Arab ministers emphasised the need to reach an immediate and complete ceasefire in Gaza and “the importance of taking irreversible steps to implement the two-state solution,” SPA added, referring to Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state.

They also expressed support for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) after 16 countries suspended their funding to the agency following Israeli claims that a dozen of its employees took part in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan called for an intensification of efforts to prevent the expansion of conflict in the region during the meeting, the UAE state news agency said on Friday.

(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah and Ahmed Elimam; Editing by Toby Chopra, Philippa Fletcher and Ros Russell)