US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Ankara on Monday as part of his Middle East tour aimed at addressing the rising tensions from the Israel-Hamas conflict. The visit was marked by a notably low-profile reception with no senior Turkish official present to greet him on his arrival at Esenboğa Airport on Sunday evening.
On his designated route through the city, posters displaying images of Abu Obaida, the chief of Hamas’s armed wing the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, were hung from overpasses, along with banners calling Blinken a “baby killer”, as reported by the pro-government Turkish media outlets.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Tamer Qarmoot, a professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, suggested that Blinken’s primary objective was to secure more time for Israel. This sentiment could explain the restrained welcome Blinken received.
The US delegation’s efforts in Ankara centred around the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Blinken reiterated Washington’s calls for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting. However, Turkey, alongside other Arab and Muslim nations, is pushing for an immediate and full ceasefire in the light of the devastating civilian casualties in Gaza.
During their discussions, the US side reportedly encouraged Turkey to persuade Hamas to release captives, to which Turkey is reported to have responded by advocating for a mutual prisoner release where both Hamas and Israel would participate. Turkey also proposed an unconditional ceasefire and the establishment of an international mechanism, with Ankara as the guarantor, to oversee its enforcement.
Blinken, in a statement at the airport after his visit to Turkey and before heading back home, emphasised ongoing efforts to minimise civilian casualties and to ensure timely humanitarian aid delivery to Gaza. He mentioned engaging with Israel to reduce civilian losses and predicted significant developments in the coming days.
Diplomatic sources said that both Turkey and the US recognised the importance of a two-state solution during their talks. Fidan is reported to have conveyed concerns about the targeting of civilian infrastructure in Gaza to Blinken. Notably, Fidan had earlier labelled civilian infrastructure in Kurdish-led North and East Syria “legitimate targets”, prior to a Turkish military campaign in the region which targeted essential facilities like power and water stations, hospitals, factories and agricultural fields leading to a humanitarian crisis in the area.