Blinken to lobby Middle Eastern allies for stronger support for Ukraine

SDE BOKER, Israel — When he joins a summit on Sunday dedicated to Middle East unity, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will ask som...


SDE BOKER, Israel — When he joins a summit on Sunday dedicated to Middle East unity, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will ask some of the region’s top diplomats to rally to another cause: helping Ukraine to repel the Russian invasion.

the hastily arranged summit The meeting in the Negev desert was billed as a historic event, designed to showcase growing diplomatic and economic ties between some Arab states and Israel that Blinken on Sunday called “unthinkable just a few years ago.” “. But above all, he had in mind the modest support for Ukraine among countries in the region that also have ties to Russia.

“It is an integral part of the conversation that we had today, and that I will have throughout my visit here, including with our partners,” Mr. Blinken said Sunday in Jerusalem during a conference of press with the Israeli Foreign Ministry. minister, Yair Lapid.

“We’ll be talking throughout about the different ways that Israel and other countries can support Ukraine,” he said. “It will be a conversation that will continue throughout this journey.”

Blinken praised Israel’s humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including helping refugees and sending a field hospital to the conflict zone. Mr. Blinken also noted Israel’s role trying to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin — one of the few countries still able to do so — to end the crisis even as it condemned the invasion.

But so far, Israel has not sent arms to Ukraine, nor joined a broad coalition of countries around the world, including the seven largest industrial nations, to impose harsh economic sanctions designed to isolate the Russia and hamper its war footing.

Israel buys about $1 billion in coal, wheat, diamonds and other Russian goods every year, and in 2020 sent about $718 million worth of agricultural products to Russia, according to the Observatory of Economic Opportunities at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Israel is also coordinating with Russia to prevent entering a direct but unintended military conflict in neighboring Syria, where Iranian soldiers or their proxy fighters seek to threaten the Jewish state.

Lapid called US-Israel relations ‘unbreakable’ but noted disagreements over Biden administration’s attempts to revert to nuclear deal with Iran and open diplomatic consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem. Although Israel has not imposed sanctions on Russia, it is working to prevent Moscow from evading economic sanctions, Blinken said.

Mr. Lapid said: “I think there is no doubt in anyone’s mind, as our team presented this to the US delegation, that Israel is doing everything it can to be part of effort.

In trying to maintain relations with Russia against the backdrop of war, Israel is not alone in the Middle East.

Russia exports even more goods to Morocco than to Israel, amounting to around $1.35 billion worth of coal, oil and chemicals in 2020. Morocco, which will participate on Sunday and Monday in the summit celebrating the so-called Abraham’s agreements with Israel, has tried to remain impartial since the invasion and maintains that he wants to help mediate the crisis by maintaining open communication with Russia and Ukraine.

Morocco also wants to prevent Russia from directly arming the Polisario Frontthe Western Sahara independence group.

“Morocco’s relations with Russia are very old and date back centuries,” Ahmed Faouzi, a former high-ranking Moroccan diplomat, said in an interview. He also noted the “good relations” with Ukraine and defended Morocco’s neutrality in the war as “positive”.

“The idea is not to make the situation worse,” Faouzi said. “There is a need for other countries to find common ground. A full-fledged war benefits no one.

Mr. Blinken will travel to Morocco later this week, his first visit there as secretary of state. While there, he is also expected to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, who declined late last month. denounce the Russian invasion by abstaining from voting on a resolution supported by the United States in the United Nations Security Council.

The Persian Gulf nation also evaded US demands to increase oil production for European markets that depended on Russian energy. The Emirates buy military weapons from Moscow and have given refuge to Russian oligarchs and others closely linked to Mr Putin who moved to Dubai to escape the bite of international sanctions.

The disconnect over Russia represents the latest sign of frayed relations between Washington and the Emirates that began to cool when President Biden made it clear that the Middle East would not be a top foreign policy priority for his administration. . He has instead sought to focus on the United States’ complex relationship with China and, more recently, deterring Russia.

This month, the Emirati ambassador in Washington described an ongoing “stress test” between the United Arab Emirates and the United States, caused in part by the resumption of negotiations by the Biden administration for a nuclear agreement with Iran and by a dispute on a $23 billion arms sale who allegedly sent advanced American warplanes to the United Arab Emirates The Ambassador, Yousef al-Otaiba, described “Strong days when the relationship is very healthy, and days when the relationship is challenged.”

Bahrain, an early signatory to the Abraham Accords, has also sought to cross a line between Russia and Ukraine. The energy-rich kingdom voted for of the Security Council resolution that denounced the invasion. But it also continues to dialogue with Russia in the hope of finding a way out of the war, including in a phone call between Mr Putin and King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa two weeks ago.

A analysis published this month by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy noted that Russia’s invasion could have broad economic impacts on the region, from demands to export more oil and gas to Europe, to possible shortages of wheat and other products from Ukraine. He concluded that much of the Middle East “could be caught in the middle as the conflict in Ukraine unfolds.”

“Further spillovers could increase instability in the region and beyond,” the analysis concluded. “Amid broad concerns about Washington’s diminishing focus on the Middle East, the US response to the Ukraine crisis could shape perceptions of US interests in the region.”

In Jerusalem, Mr Blinken acknowledged rising bread prices in the Middle East caused by wheat shortages, describing the fallout from the war as “hit the most vulnerable the hardest”.

He said his travels this week, including to Algiers, Algeria and Ramallah in the West Bank, would seek to “ease some of the burden this places on people, including throughout the Middle East”.

Patrick Kingsley contributed reporting to Sde Boker, Israel, and Aida Alami from Paris.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Blinken to lobby Middle Eastern allies for stronger support for Ukraine
Blinken to lobby Middle Eastern allies for stronger support for Ukraine
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