Antony Blinken
Antony Blinken Reuters

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Thursday held a teleconference focused on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's upcoming trip to Israel, Morocco, and Algeria.

Joining the call was Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Yael Lempert, who previewed the Secretary’s travel to Israel, the West Bank, Morocco, and Algeria.

Speaking on record, Lempert confirmed that Blinken will travel to to Israel Morocco, and Algeria, from March 26-30.

"While there, he’s going to engage with our partners on a range of regional and global priorities, including Ukraine, Iran, the Abraham Accords and normalization agreements with Israel, preserving the prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and building support for the UN’s engagement on Western Sahara, among other topics," she said. "Of course, this will be Secretary Blinken’s second visit to Israel and the West Bank as Secretary, but this will be his first visit to Morocco and Algeria since he became Secretary."

During his visit to Israel, Blinken will "underscore the United States’ ironclad commitment to Israeli security, coordination on Ukraine and Iran, and work to build upon the gains from the Abraham Accords," she added.

"While there, he will meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Defense Minister Benny Gantz (Blue and White), and also with Israeli President Isaac Herzog." He will also meet with Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, as well as with representatives of PA civil society.

"During the visit, Secretary Blinken will affirm the commitment of the United States to a two-state solution, and to greater freedom, security, and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis alike. He will also underscore the importance of the upcoming month when major religious holidays across faiths will be celebrated, and reiterate the importance of actions to build trust, and enhance stability and security, and the need to avoid steps that can inflame tensions on the ground."

In North Africa, Blinken will first visit Morocco, where he will meet with Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and other senior government officials to exchange views on regional issues and bilateral cooperation, and on advancing human rights and fundamental freedom, and he also will engage with Moroccan youth. While in Rabat, the Secretary will also meet Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to discuss regional security and international developments.

Blinken’s trip will culminate in Algiers, where he will meet President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and his counterpart Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra to discuss regional security and stability, commercial cooperation, and advancing human rights and fundamental freedom.

Blinken will also "emphasize to all the foreign leaders he meets with that the U.S. stands in solidarity and support with the government and people of Ukraine. He will affirm the need for Vladimir Putin to end his premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified war on Ukraine," she added.

"Putin’s reckless war will only continue to increase the price of basic staples like bread in the region, taking money from the pockets of the hardest working and most vulnerable families as he invades a sovereign country without provocation," she concluded. "This war must stop, and we will work hand-in-hand with our partners the world over to get there."

During the question-and-answer session that followed, Lempert was asked, "Former Secretary of State Pompeo issued a ruling for – decision that said that the U.S. did not see the Israeli settlements in the West Bank as being illegal. And to my knowledge, Secretary of State Blinken has not reversed that position. Now, tell me if I’m wrong. But is it the Biden administration’s policy that the Israeli settlements are not illegal under their – our version of international law?"

Lempert's response was short and to the point: "I have no update for you on that particular topic," she said.

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