Blinken, Abbas talk maintaining calm, de-escalating tensions

The conversation between the two comes as Israeli National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata met in Washington with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.

 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, in March. The Biden administration treats leaders of the PA as children or worse, says the writer. (photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin/Reuters)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, in March. The Biden administration treats leaders of the PA as children or worse, says the writer.
(photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin/Reuters)

WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Tuesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “regarding the importance of Israelis and Palestinians working to maintain calm and de-escalate tensions,” the US State Department said.

The secretary emphasized the importance of the US-Palestinian relationship, and the administration’s support for a negotiated two-state solution,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. Blinken underscored “the importance of concluding the investigations into the death of Palestinian-American Shireen Abu Akleh,” he said.

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata met in Washington with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to discuss similar topics. Their conversation was about “the importance of Israelis and Palestinians working together to maintain calm and de-escalate tension,” the State Department said.

“Deputy Secretary Sherman reinforced to National Security Adviser Hulata the need to advance towards a reality where Israelis and Palestinians alike can enjoy equal measures of security, freedom and prosperity,” it said, adding that they agreed on the need for continued close coordination between the US and Israel to advance regional security and stability.

 US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during daily press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC, US, February 22, 2021 (credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/POOL VIA REUTERS) US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during daily press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC, US, February 22, 2021 (credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/POOL VIA REUTERS)

An east Jerusalem consulate

During Tuesday’s State Department press briefing, Price addressed a question about a report that President Joe Biden will elevate Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr to the role of special envoy to the Palestinians, as the reopening of the US Consulate in east Jerusalem remains shelved.

“I don’t have any personnel announcements to preview,” he said. 

"We remain committed to opening a consulate in Jerusalem. We continue to believe it can be an important way for our country to engage with and provide support to the Palestinian people."

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price

“We’re continuing to discuss this with our Israeli and our Palestinian partners, and we’ll continue to consult with members of Congress as well,” Price said. “Meanwhile, at this very moment, we have a dedicated team of colleagues working in Jerusalem, in our Palestinian Affairs Office, focused on engagement with and outreach to the Palestinian people.”

Asked why the consulate was not reopened, he said: “There are a number of steps that have to go into the reopening of any diplomatic facility. There are some unique sensitivities to this particular facility. But as I said before, we are working through the issue with our Palestinian and Israeli partners.”

Investigate Shireen Abu Akleh's death

In response to a question about the investigation of Shireen Abu Akleh’s death, Price said the US has “urged our Israeli partners – and Secretary Blinken even over the weekend had another opportunity to reinforce this message with his counterpart, Foreign Minister [Yair] Lapid – we urge the Israeli government to swiftly conclude their investigation into the killing of the Shireen Abu Akleh.”

“We expect full accountability for those responsible for her killing and... have urged that the sides share their evidence with each other to facilitate that investigation,” he said.

Abbas told Blinken the US must take action against Israeli violations of International law and that it was not enough for it to simply issue condemnations, according to WAFA, the Palestinian news agency.

Among the issues Abbas raised with Blinken were Israeli attempts to pray on the Temple Mount, the Jerusalem Day flag march, Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, settlement construction, extrajudicial killing and settler violence against Palestinians, the report said.

Abbas called on Blinken to remove the Palestine Liberation Organization from its Foreign Terrorist Organizations list and to reopen both the PLO office in Washington and the US Consulate in Jerusalem, which had served as a de facto embassy for the Palestinians, WAFA reported.

A high-level US delegation would arrive in Israel and the Palestinian territories soon to prepare for Biden’s upcoming visit to the region, the report said.

Blinken has also spoken in the last week with Lapid and with the Saudi Arabian and Egyptian foreign ministers.

On Tuesday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi met with Abbas in Ramallah.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.