Wink to press Mideast Allies for stronger support for Ukraine

JERUSALEM – As he participates in Sunday’s summit focused on Middle Eastern unity, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will ask some of the region’s top diplomats to assemble for a different reason: to help Ukraine repels the Russian invasion.

The hastily arranged summit The meeting in the Negev desert has been billed as a historic event, designed to showcase the growing diplomatic and economic ties between several Arab countries and Israel, which Mr. Blinken on Sunday called “unthinkable just a few years ago.” But the most important thing in his mind is the modest support for Ukraine among the countries in the region that have relations with Russia.

“This is a very important part of the conversation we have had today and that I will have throughout my visit here, including with our partners,” Mr. Blinken said Sunday. Japan in Jerusalem during a press conference with Israeli expatriates. Minister, Yair Lapid.

“We will have a cross-sectional discussion of the different modes of assistance that Israel and other countries can provide to Ukraine,” he said. “It’s going to be a constant conversation throughout this trip.”

Blinken praised Israel’s humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including assisting refugees and sending a makeshift hospital to the conflict zone. Mr. Blinken also acknowledged the role of Israel trying to negotiate with Russian President Putin – one of the few countries still able to do so – to end the crisis even as they condemned the invasion.

To date, however, Israel has not sent weapons to Ukraine, nor has it joined a broad coalition of nations worldwide, including the seven largest industrialized nations, to impose the Harsh economic sanctions aimed at isolating Russia and hindering its chances of war.

Israel buys about $1 billion worth of coal, wheat, diamonds and other goods from Russia annually, and by 2020 has sent about $718 million in agricultural goods to Russia, According to the Economic Opportunity Observatory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Israel also works with Russia to prevent direct but unintentional military conflict in neighboring Syria, where Iranian soldiers or their proxies seek to threaten the Jewish state.

Mr. Lapid called relations between the United States and Israel “unbreakable” but noted disagreements over the Biden administration’s efforts to roll back the Iran nuclear deal and open a diplomatic consulate to the Palestinians. in Jerusalem. Blinken said that although Israel has not yet imposed sanctions against Russia, it is working to prevent Moscow from evading economic penalties.

Mr. Lapid said, “I think there is no doubt in anyone’s mind, while our team is presenting this to the American delegation, that Israel is doing everything it can to be a part of it. efforts.”

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

Russian exports even more goods are arriving in Morocco than Israel, amounting to about $1.35 billion in coal, oil and chemicals by 2020. Morocco, the country that will attend the summit meeting commemorating the so-called Agreement Abraham with Israel on Sunday and Monday, has tried to stay fair since the invasion and maintains it wants to help mediate the crisis by keeping open communications with both Russia and Ukraine.

Morocco also wants to not give Russia direct equipment Polisario Frontpro-independence groups in Western Sahara.

Ahmed Faouzi, Morocco’s senior diplomat, said in an interview: “Morocco’s relations with Russia are very old and date back several centuries. He also noted “good relations” with Ukraine and defended Morocco’s neutrality during the war as “positive.”

“The idea is not to aggravate the situation,” Mr. Faouzi said. “Other countries need to find common ground. Official war benefits no one.”

Mr. Blinken will visit Morocco later this week, his first visit there as foreign minister. While there, he is also expected to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, who declined late last month. denounced Russia’s invasion by abstaining on a US-backed resolution at the United Nations Security Council.

The Persian Gulf country has also rejected a US request to increase oil production for European markets that depend on Russian energy. Emirates buys military weapons from Moscow and has given shelter to Russian oligarchs and others with close connections to Mr. Putin who moved to Dubai to escape international sanctions.

The disconnect with Russia is the latest sign that the fracturing relationship between Washington and the United Kingdom is starting to cool as President Biden makes clear that the Middle East will not be a foreign policy priority leading to his administration. Instead, they have sought to focus on the United States’ complex relationships with China and, more recently, on deterrence against Russia.

This month, the Emirati ambassador to Washington described a “stress test” underway between the UAE and the United States, in part due to new negotiations by the Biden administration over the nuclear deal with the United Arab Emirates. Iran and by dispute. over $23 billion in arms sales that may have sent advanced American fighter jets to the UAE. Ambassador, Yousef al-Otaiba, described “Strong days when the relationship is very healthy and days when the relationship is in doubt.”

Bahrain, one of the original signatories of the Abrahamic Agreement, also sought to draw a boundary between Russia and Ukraine. Energy rich kingdom vote in favor Security Council resolutions denounced the invasion. But it is also continuing to communicate with Russia in the hope of finding a way out of the war, including call between Putin and King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa two weeks ago.

One analysis published this month The Washington Institute for Near East Policy notes that Russia’s invasion could have widespread economic implications for the region, from the need to export more oil and gas to Europe, to the potential shortage of rice. noodles and other products from Ukraine. It concluded that much of the Middle East “could be caught in the middle as the conflict in Ukraine unfolds.”

“The fallout could continue to increase instability in the region and beyond,” the analysis concluded. “Amid widespread concerns about Washington’s reduced 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 that the soaring prices of bread in the Middle East were due to wheat shortages, describing the aftermath of the war as having “the hardest impact on the most vulnerable”.

He said his trips this week, including to Algiers, Algeria and Ramallah in the West Bank, would appear to “relieve some of the burden this is placing on people, including the Middle East. “

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

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