US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is travelling to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan. (Photo: Reuters)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Jordan and Israel from Saudi Arabia as talks for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip pick up pace.

Blinken will arrive in Saudi Arabia on Monday where he will hold discussions for a deal aimed at establishing a ceasefire in Gaza and freeing hostages in the captivity of Hamas. He will hold discussions with top Arab officials on the sidelines of a World Economic Conference (WEF) being held in the country.

Blinken’s tour of the Middle East coincides with the arrival of a Hamas delegation in Egypt with a response to the latest ceasefire proposal presented to the group.

Blinken’s visit extended after Biden-Netanyahu call

The new stops of Israel and Jordan were added to Blinken’s visit after US President Joe Biden talked to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on phone on Sunday, according to AFP.

As Blinken’s plane refuelled in Ireland, a Department of State official confirmed to the news agency that Blinken will travel to these two countries from Saudi Arabia.

In their call, Biden and Netanyahu discussed the ongoing efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas and the expected invasion of Rafah, the southern Gazan town where more than 1 million Palestinians displaced from the war are sheltering and where Israel says multiple Hamas battalions are also making their last stand.

Previously, State Department Spokesperson Mathew Miller had said that Blinken during his visit will emphasise that it is Hamas that is roadblocking a ceasefire in Gaza as it is not budging on negotiations.

Separately, French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné is also headed to Riyadh. He is travelling to Saudi Arabia from Lebanon where he held talks aimed to ease the tensions between Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which has clashed with Israel on a nearly-daily basis since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas War in October 2023.

No major issues in ceasefire proposal: Hamas

Ahead of the arrival of its delegation in Egypt with a response to the ceasefire proposal, Hamas on Sunday said it had no “major issues” with it, according to AFP.

“The atmosphere is positive unless there are new Israeli obstacles. There are no major issues in the observations and inquiries submitted by Hamas regarding the contents [of the proposal],” said a Hamas official to the news agency, on the condition of anonymity.

The United States along with regional partners Qatar and Egypt have been facilitating negotiations between Israel and Hamas for a deal that would institute a truce in Gaza and free hostages. While the talks were stalled for weeks, there have been reports that negotiations have picked pace lately. Axios has reported that, for the first time in the talks so far, the latest ceasefire proposal has included Israel’s willingness to discuss the end of the war in Gaza.

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