Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan (R) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) during their meeting in Ankara, Turkey, 06 November 2023. EFE/EPA/NECATI SAVAS

Blinken agrees in Turkey to work for better humanitarian aid access to Gaza

Istanbul, Turkey, Nov 6 (EFE).- The United States’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, agreed during meetings on Monday in Ankara to continue working on increasing humanitarian supplies for Gaza and to prevent the killing of civilians.

More than 10,000 people – the majority women, children and the elderly – have been killed in the Gaza Strip since Israel began bombing the enclave in response to the deadly attack on Oct. 7 by Hamas militants that left over 1,400 people dead in Israel, while some 230 hostages were also taken by the Palestinian militants.

“We know the deep concern here for the terrible toll that Gaza is taking on Palestinians – on men, women, and children in Gaza, innocent civilians – a concern that we share and that we’re working on every single day,” Blinken told Turkish reporters after meeting with Fidan in Ankara.

“We’ve engaged the Israelis on steps that they can take to minimize civilian casualties,” he said, insisting that Washington was working “very aggressively on getting more humanitarian assistance into Gaza,” according to a statement by the US State department.

People shout slogans, hold banners reading ‘Zionist Blinken should not come to Ankara’ and light flares during a protest against the US secretary of state’s visit to Turkey and Israel’s attacks in the Gaza Strip, in Ankara, Turkey, 06 November 2023. EFE/EPA/NECATI SAVAS

The meeting was part of Blinken’s tour that began on Friday in Tel Aviv and continued over the weekend in Amman, with two brief, unannounced stops in Cyprus and Baghdad on Sunday.

Blinken arrived in Ankara at midnight local time and met this morning with Fidan for two and a half hours.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan (L) welcomes US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) during their meeting in Ankara, Turkey, 06 November 2023. EFE/EPA/NECATI SAVAS

The US’ chief diplomat said Washington has “very concrete ways” to boost humanitarian supplies for the besieged enclave.

“I think you’ll see in the days ahead that that assistance can expand in significant ways so that more gets into people who need it and gets to the people who need it, as well as making sure that people can continue to come out of Gaza,” Blinken said.

He also said that a “humanitarian pause” in the war would also benefit the hostages kidnapped by Hamas when the Islamist group launched its attack on Israel last month, although he stressed that he could not elaborate on this aspect.

“When it comes to humanitarian pauses, we’re engaged with the Israelis on the particular practicalities of that. One critical aspect, though, is seeing progress on hostages. That’s something we’re intensely focused on. But we also believe that a pause could help advance that proposition as well.”

Fidan, for his part, made no statements to the press but, according to diplomatic sources quoted by the Turkish state agency Anadolu Agency, in his meetings with Blinken he insisted on the need to impose a comprehensive and immediate ceasefire and to prevent Israel from killing civilians during its bombing attacks on the Gaza Strip and forcing the displacement of the population.

Both agreed on the importance of preventing harm to civilians and ensuring the uninterrupted delivery of humanitarian aid, while stressing their readiness to work together for the future establishment of a Palestinian state, Anadolu adds.

During the meeting, demonstrators called by the Turkish Youth Union (TGB), a secular ultranationalist organization that defines itself as anti-imperialist, gathered near the Ministry with shouts of “Murderer Blinken, get out of Turkey”, until they were dispersed by the police.

Turkish analysts consulted by EFE before the meeting underlined that due to last week’s rupture of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel, the possibility for Ankara to play a mediating role in the Palestinian conflict is minimal.

They predicted that the US would try above all to convince Turkey to maintain a sufficiently moderate position in order to resume relations with Israel once the conflict is over, and to avoid a definitive rupture.

From Ankara, Blinken flies to Tokyo before continuing on to South Korea and ending his tour on Friday in New Delhi. EFE