The list of issues to be discussed is long: the continuation of the war in Gaza and the entry of humanitarian aid to the enclave. The growing tension on the border between Israel and Lebanon, with the mediating role of the neighboring countries and the Persian Gulf. The attacks of the Yemeni Houthis in the Red Sea and the activity of pro-Iran militias in countries such as Iraq or Syria. The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, began this Saturday his fourth tour of countries in the Middle East and southeastern Europe since the war between Israel and Hamas began. The increase in hostilities in different parts of the region makes it increasingly difficult to find a political solution to the conflict, while international criticism increases over the Israeli offensive in Gaza and the West Bank. Washington has been trying for weeks to convince the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah party to withdraw its forces from southern Lebanon in an attempt to reduce the possibility of opening another war front. He also launched the initiative to stop aggression in the Red Sea, which puts nearly 20% of world maritime trade in check.

“We don’t expect all of the conversations on this trip to be easy,” said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller. “There are obviously difficult issues facing the region and difficult decisions ahead,” he said of the meetings that Blinken will hold in the coming days in Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the West Bank. “No one is interested, neither in any country in the region, nor in any country in the world, for this conflict to intensify more than it already is,” he added.

Blinken had planned to travel to the region at the end of the month, but brought forward the trip after the escalation of tensions this week, after Israel killed the number two of the political branch of Hamas, Saleh el Arouri, in Beirut with a drone attack . Hezbollah has vowed to respond to his death, while Israel has stepped up its attacks in the south of the country.

On his first stop, Blinken was received in Istanbul by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan; together with the Turkish Foreign Minister, Hakan Fidan; and the head of the secret services, Ibrahim Kalin. In two bilateral meetings with the Presidency and Foreign Affairs, they discussed the situation of the war in Gaza and the humanitarian crisis unleashed by the Israeli blockade on the entry of food and medical supplies to the enclave. The Turkish Foreign Department noted in a statement on the social network

Ankara has vetoed its admission for more than a year, citing security issues, due to Stockholm’s sympathy for some pro-Kurdish parties that Ankara considers terrorist organizations. After months of diplomatic ups and downs between Turkey, Sweden and representatives of the Alliance, Ankara finally gave in to the Nordic country’s entry into NATO, although it is still in the voting process for its approval in Parliament. The Government has been slowing down the process for more than two months, which was pending for the new year. And it has not yet been resumed because Parliament remains closed for vacation until the end of January. Washington has shown its frustration at the slowness of the process, although it is confident that Ankara will approve Sweden’s accession, a senior official told the Reuters agency.

Diplomatic sources told public broadcaster TRT that in exchange for Ankara’s green light, US lawmakers could finally sell the F-16 fighter jets, which Turkey has been requesting for nearly three years. This issue caused a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and the United States four years ago, when Ankara bought an S400 anti-missile system from Russia, incompatible with NATO security.

Following this meeting, Blinken later traveled to the island of Crete to meet with the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.