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Blinken exhorts Israeli, Palestinian leaders to 'restore calm'

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C) spoke  with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on February 18, 2023
— Washington (AFP)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Saturday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and separately with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, reaffirming US support for a "two-state solution" in the region and asking the two to "restore calm."

Blinken spoke by telephone with both men to reaffirm US commitment to "a negotiated two-state solution and opposition to policies that endanger its viability," State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

"The Secretary underscored the urgent need for Israelis and Palestinians to take steps that restore calm and our strong opposition to unilateral measures that would further escalate tensions."

That message followed a decision by Israel's new hard-right government to give retroactive permission to multiple settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank -- a move that drew nearly unanimous criticism among major powers including the United States.

The White House said Thursday it was "deeply dismayed" by the Israeli decision, but it nevertheless voiced opposition to a proposed UN Security Council resolution to demand Israel end settlements in the occupied territories.

Blinken met with Abbas late last month in the West Bank at the end of an intense series of diplomatic meetings planned before the latest flare-up of violence.

In their phone call, the two "discussed efforts to improve the quality of life of the Palestinian people and enhance their security and freedom," Price said in a statement.

Blinken and Netanyahu spoke about broader regional challenges, Price said, "including the threats posed by Iran," and Blinken underscored the United States' "ironclad commitment to Israel's security."

Last year was the deadliest year in the West Bank since the United Nations started tracking casualties there in 2005, and the deadly violence has continued this year.

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