Ankara and Washington agree on the need to prevent civilians from being harmed in Gaza, Turkish diplomatic sources said after Fidan and Blinken met to discuss the ongoing Israel-Palestine crisis
Türkiye has pressed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, Turkish diplomatic sources said Monday following a meeting between Blinken and Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Ankara.
Türkiye and the United States must work together for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Fidan told Blinken during their closed-door meeting, sources said.
The top diplomats discussed “working toward durable lasting peace in the Middle East, as well as efforts to expand humanitarian efforts and prevent the Gaza conflict from spreading,” Blinken told reporters from the airport.
The U.S. secretary wrapped up a frantic tour of the Middle East that took him from Jordan to Egypt, Saudi Arabia to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where he faced a chorus of Arab calls to support an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. He also made a surprise visit to the occupied West Bank on Sunday to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and stopped over in Iraq and the Greek Cypriot administration.
Acknowledging “deep concerns” in the region over the conflict in Gaza, he said the U.S. “sees the horrible price being paid by Palestinian civilians.”
He said Washington was working “very aggressively” to substantially expand the amount of aid reaching trapped civilians in the besieged city. “We have made good progress in recent days on expanding” the aid getting into Gaza, Blinken said, adding that a “pause (in fighting) could help that as well.”
“We’re in contact with Israel both regarding Gaza and what’s happening the West Bank,” Blinken noted.
He claimed, “Every country I talk to is looking for us to play a leading role with our diplomacy to try to make progress on all of these different aspects of the crisis.”
Blinken’s first visit to Türkiye since Israel went to war in reprisal for the Hamas Oct. 7 attack did not include a meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was traveling in Türkiye’s northeast, seemingly a snub of Washington’s top diplomat.
Just as Blinken was speaking to reporters on the tarmac, President Erdoğan shared photos amid a circle of locals from the breezy highlands of the Black Sea region. Erdoğan has received foreign ministers of several countries during their visit to Türkiye to discuss the conflict, including the Iranian foreign minister who was in Ankara last week.
Blinken’s mission, his second to the region since the war began, has found only tepid, if any, support for his efforts to contain the fallout from the conflict.
Israel has rejected the idea of pauses while Arab and Muslim nations are instead demanding an immediate cease-fire as the casualty toll soars among Palestinian civilians under Israeli bombardments of Gaza.
Israel says it could accept a “humanitarian pause” to allow in additional shipments of aid once Hamas frees the hostages it took on Oct. 7.
Blinken said the U.S. remains “very focused” on hostages taken by Hamas, including American citizens, and “making sure we’re doing everything possible to bring them home.”
He believes after talks in Türkiye, other countries in NATO can play an important role in getting hostages back.
Blinken has supported the Israeli position while trying to assure regional players that Washington is focused on relieving humanitarian suffering.
He and Fidan discussed the protection of civilians, establishing a mechanism for a lasting solution, and Türkiye’s offer of a guarantorship model where both Israel and Palestine would have guarantor countries, namely Saudi Arabia or Türkiye, as well as Western nations experienced in mediation, according to Turkish diplomatic sources.
Outside the Foreign Ministry in Ankara, dozens of anti-American protestors carrying Palestinian and Turkish flags held up anti-U.S. and anti-Israel placards as the Blinken-Fidan meeting got underway. Earlier Monday, police dispersed a group of students marching toward the ministry chanting “Murderer Blinken, get out of Türkiye!”
It was the second day of protests denouncing Blinken’s visit. On Sunday, pro-Palestinian protesters clashed with Turkish riot police outside the U.S.-Turkish Incirlik military air base in the southern city of Adana. Police fired tear gas and water cannons as the demonstrators tried to cross fields to enter the base.
Blinken was also visibly disgruntled when he was welcomed only by the deputy governor upon landing in Ankara on Sunday night. And when he met Fidan in person, his attempt to hug his Turkish counterpart was rebuffed, who went for a handshake instead.
Inside Fidan’s office, the U.S. diplomat was seated next to symbols of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Turkish flag.
Ankara is calling for Washington not to support Israel’s actions in Gaza and de-escalate the conflict to prevent it from spiraling into a regional issue.
Erdoğan said on Sunday it was “Türkiye’s duty” as a supporter of an independent Palestinian state to immediately stop the violence.
He said Ankara was “working behind the scenes” with regional allies to secure an uninterrupted stream of humanitarian aid into Gaza.
But he has cut off contacts with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and called back Ankara’s ambassador to Israel in protest.
Erdoğan has also accused the West of double standards and losing its moral authority.
“Those who shed crocodile tears for the civilians killed in the Ukraine-Russia war are now quietly watching the killing of thousands of innocent children,” Erdoğan said last month.
The Health Ministry in Gaza on Monday said nearly 10,000 people had been killed, half of which were women and children, in more than four weeks of Israeli strikes in the blockaded city.
The war threatens to have broad repercussions on Washington’s relations with Türkiye, a powerful NATO member with a muscular foreign policy and stakes in conflicts across the Middle East.
Blinken’s closed-door talks with Fidan in Ankara would have been packed with problems even before Israel launched a relentless bombing and expanding ground campaign in Gaza.
Washington is anxious to see Türkiye’s Parliament finally ratify Sweden’s stalled drive to join the U.S.-led NATO defense organization.
Blinken on Monday said he was “convinced we’ll see forward progression Sweden’s accession” to the bloc.
Ankara is upset that Congress is holding up the approval of a deal backed by U.S. President Joe Biden to modernize Türkiye’s air force with dozens of U.S. F-16 fighter jets.
Furthermore, Türkiye has longstanding reservations about U.S. support for terrorist group PKK’s Syrian affiliate YPG, which has occupied the war-torn country’s northern regions near the Turkish border for years with Washington’s help. The terrorists have hideouts across the region from where they launch attacks on Türkiye and terrorize local residents.
The U.S. claims the YPG is its closest ally in combating Daesh, another terrorist group, despite Ankara’s documentation that the two are the same group.
Ankara has stepped up airstrikes against PKK/YPG terrorists in Syria and Iraq in reprisal for an October attack on the Turkish capital claimed by the PKK in which two assailants died.
The Pentagon downed a Turkish drone in northern Syria last month where U.S. troops were near YPG terrorists and refused to offer an explanation, drawing Ankara’s ire.
Fidan emphasized to Blinken that Türkiye regrets its NATO ally’s support to PKK/YPG terrorists across its borders and is keeping communication channels open to “prevent a repeat of the drone incident.”
The Russia-Ukraine war and the Black Sea grain initiative, which was brokered by Ankara and the U.N. last year to combat a global food crisis and which Moscow quit earlier in July, were also on the agenda for the diplomats.
The pair also discussed the current situation in the South Caucasus, where ex-Soviet republics Azerbaijan and Armenia are struggling for peace over their three-decade conflict in the Karabakh region.
From Ankara, Blinken will head to Asia where the Gaza conflict will likely share top billing with other international crises at a series of events in Japan, South Korea and India.