Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday amid escalating settler violence in the West Bank following Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7.
The top US diplomat’s visit to Ramallah – his first since that attack – comes as the United States grapples with the Israel-Hamas war and resulting humanitarian catastrophe. It follows Blinken stops in Israel and Jordan.
Abbas and Blinken met twice in Jordan during the latter’s trip to the region last month after the attack.
According to a senior State Department official, Blinken thought it was important to update Abbas “on a lot of the work that we have been doing in some of our meetings with the government of Israel.” The official said Blinken told Abbas “how we, in our meeting on Friday, pressed Israel to minimize civilian harm; gave him an update on our work to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza (and) get essential services restored; and (described) our conversations with Israel about implementing a humanitarian pause.”
Blinken has suggested the Palestinian Authority could play a role in Gaza’s future if Hamas is eliminated. However, the topic of Gaza’s future governance “was very much not the focus of the conversation” between Blinken and Abbas on Sunday, the official said.
The meeting, which the official described as “productive and constructive,” was instead focused on Gaza’s present situation and the situation in the West Bank.
Abbas had a “similar position” to that of the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan on the need for a ceasefire in Gaza – something the US has thus far opposed. Instead, the US is calling for “humanitarian pauses” to allow increased aid to flow into and civilians to depart the war-torn strip.
Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Kingdom, described Blinken’s meeting with Abbas as tense, telling CBS News that Abbas “demanded an immediate ceasefire to the atrocious, murderous assault by Israel on our civilians and people.”
“We need to see the US playing the role of an honest mediator, not adopting the Israeli narrative,” Zomlot said. “We needed a grownup in the room and that is the US – unfortunately, we haven’t heard that and we have not come up with a joint statement.”
According to a State Department readout of the roughly hourlong meeting, Blinken and 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.”
Blinken “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,” spokesperson Matt Miller said in the written readout.
The top US diplomat “expressed the commitment of the United States to working toward the realization of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Miller said.
At a summit Saturday in Amman with the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Blinken said they are “all deeply concerned about escalating extremist violence against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank,” calling it “a serious problem that’s only worsened since the conflict.”
At least 150 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since October 7, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health – a number nearing the total of Palestinians killed in the West Bank in all of 2022.
Blinken, who met with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv on Friday, said he heard “a clear commitment from the government to deal with extremist violence in the West Bank, to condemn it, to take action to prevent it, to take action against those who perpetrate it.”
“This is important, and we will be looking closely to ensure that our friends make good on that commitment,” he said.
This story has been updated with additional information.
CNN’s Abeer Salman and Abby Baggini contributed to this report.