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Blinken to hear call for Gaza ceasefire from regional ministers in Jordan on Saturday

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Jordan

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) -U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hear demands for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza when he meets Middle East foreign ministers in Jordan on Saturday, Jordan's foreign ministry said.

Saudi, Qatari, Emirati, Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers as well as Palestinian representatives will stress the "Arab stance calling for an immediate ceasefire, delivering humanitarian aid and ways of ending the dangerous deterioration that threatens the security of the region", the ministry said in a statement on Friday.

In a meeting with Blinken in Amman early on Saturday, Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati stressed the importance of working towards a ceasefire in Gaza and stopping what he described as Israeli aggression in southern Lebanon, Mikati's office said in a statement.

Lebanon's Hezbollah has been clashing with Israeli forces across the frontier with Israel since the Hamas-Israel war erupted on Oct. 7.

Israel has attacked Hamas-controlled Gaza in retaliation for the Oct. 7 raid on Israel by Hamas militants that killed 1,400 people and took more than 240 hostages. The civilian death toll in Gaza has surpassed 9,000, and humanitarian conditions in the enclave have grown dire.

Blinken, who arrived in Jordan on Friday after earlier meeting Israeli leaders, said the U.S. was determined that there should not be a second or third front in the conflict. He also appealed to Israel to take steps to protect civilians in Gaza.

King Abdullah told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a phone call on Friday the international community urgently needed to push for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza to protect civilians, the royal court said.

The monarch said Israel's military campaign would not succeed and the only path to permanent peace was revived negotiations on an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

U.S.-brokered negotiations towards a "two-state solution" of Palestinian independence in Israeli-occupied territories have been frozen for almost a decade.

Jordan is a staunch U.S. ally and shares a border with the West Bank and Israel. Concerned about potential for a wider conflict, Amman has boosted border security and asked Washington to deploy Patriot air defence systems.

The monarch has said he fears the Gaza war could trigger a new displacement of Palestinians to Jordan, already home to a large population of Palestinians dispossessed from their land when Israel was created in 1948.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Cynthia Osterman, Alexandra Hudson)