Blinken Describes New U.S. Push at the U.N. for Gaza Cease-Fire

The United States has submitted a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council calling for “an immediate cease-fire tied to the release of hostages” in Gaza, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia, during his latest trip to the region to broker a diplomatic resolution to the war between Israel and Hamas.

Biden administration officials have grown more forceful in recent weeks in their push for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict, as the humanitarian conditions in Gaza have reached crisis levels and political pressures mount for international action.

In an interview with Al Hadath, a Saudi-run news channel, Mr. Blinken said that he hoped other countries would back the U.S.-proposed resolution. “I think that would send a strong message, a strong signal,” he said.

The United States has angered many U.N. member nations by vetoing three previous Security Council resolutions for a halt in fighting, saying at the latest vote in February that calling for an immediate cease-fire would interfere with diplomatic efforts to reach a deal securing the release of hostages.

However, last month, the Biden administration began circulating its own draft proposal that mentioned a cease-fire for the first time, albeit with several conditions, signaling that the United States was more open to criticizing how Israel is conducting its war in Gaza.

And in a speech in early March, Vice President Kamala Harris called for an “immediate cease-fire,” after months of more measured language from administration officials that focused on backing a temporary halt or a humanitarian pause in the war.

Mr. Blinken said in Wednesday’s interview that negotiations mediated by Egypt and Qatar between Hamas and Israel were “getting closer” to reaching an agreement. Negotiators have been in Qatar since Monday for the latest round of talks, after several previous attempts ended without a resolution.

Hamas last week presented a new proposal that excluded a previous demand that Israel immediately agree to a permanent cease-fire in return for beginning an exchange of hostages and Palestinian prisoners, according to people familiar with the negotiations. Israeli officials said ahead of this week’s talks that the broad proposal being discussed includes a 42-day pause, in exchange for the release of 40 of more than 100 hostages taken from Israel and held in Gaza.

“I think the gaps are narrowing, and I think an agreement is very much possible,” Mr. Blinken said.

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