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Egypt: US secretary of state Anthony Blinken speaks to young people in Cairo

Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State   -  
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The strategic partnership between the U.S. and Egypt is of "great consequence", according to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.Blinken made the comment on Sunday in Cairo where he addressed a meeting of Egypt's youth.

Noting that the majority of Egypt's population is under 25, Blinken said it was important to engage with them "because quite literally, you will be the ones making this country and you will be the ones who are going to carry forward the relationship with the United States."

The US top diplomat began a tour of the Middle East in Cairo on Sunday amid a spike in Israeli-Palestinian violence, with the slim hope of using US influence to try to ease tensions.

Before visiting Jerusalem and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Monday and Tuesday, Blinken will meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and his foreign minister Sameh Shukri.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to dominate the discussions between the two allies, with Egypt historically playing an intermediary role between the two protagonists.

This trip, scheduled for a long time, comes in the middle of an Israeli-Palestinian escalation.

On Friday, a Palestinian shot and killed seven people in East Jerusalem before being shot dead. On Saturday, a Palestinian shot and wounded two Israelis in East Jerusalem, the Israeli occupied part of the city. On Sunday, Israeli guards killed a Palestinian in the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.

Also on Friday, the Israeli army shelled the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from the blockaded enclave.

The new outbreak was exacerbated by the deadliest Israeli raid in years on Thursday in the West Bank town of Jenin, in which nine Palestinians were killed.

- No change" -

Washington condemned an "appalling" attack in East Jerusalem and Blinken will urge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to "take urgent steps toward de-escalation," the State Department said.

If in private American officials do not hide their frustration with the escalation, the margin of maneuver of the Secretary of State seems limited.

Experts interviewed by AFP do not expect any significant breakthroughs, the United States will probably be content to hammer home their support for the two-state solution, Israeli and Palestinian.

"The best they can achieve is that things stabilise in order to avoid a repeat of May 2021," the last war between Israel and Palestinian armed groups, said Aaron David Miller, an expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

For Ghaith Al-Omari, an expert at the Washington Institute, "this visit does not signal any change in the American position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" but "the conversation (with Mahmoud Abbas) is not going to be pleasant".

- Cascading visits -

Mr Blinken's visit to Israel reflects Washington's desire to re-engage with Mr Netanyahu, head of the most right-wing government in Israel's history. It comes after the visit of the White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

"I've never seen so many high-level visits under any administration," said Aaron David Miller.

"Another expert, David Makovsky of the Washington Institute, agrees, while CIA Director William Burns recently visited the region, including Cairo.

In Israel, Mr Blinken will stress "the importance of maintaining the historic status quo" on the Esplanade of the Mosques in East Jerusalem, a hotbed of tension between Israelis and Palestinians. The site is the third holiest place in Islam and the holiest place in Judaism.

The Abraham Accords, a normalisation process between Israel and several Arab countries, should also be on the agenda, with Mr Netanyahu hoping to win over Saudi Arabia.

In Cairo on Sunday, Mr Blinken made no reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He only told youth representatives at the American University in Cairo that he was visiting Israel and the West Bank.

"It is important for us to discuss not only government to government but also with all segments of society and especially the younger generation," he said.

Egypt, one of the main beneficiaries of US military aid, is regularly singled out for criticism, particularly by the US, for its human rights record, which is considered "catastrophic" by NGOs.

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