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Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Palestine death toll mounts + Turkey and Saudi struggle to make up

The death toll in Palestine stood at 212 as of Monday evening as Israel continued to launch airstrikes on Gaza yesterday, saying that it was now targeting an underground tunnel network Hamas uses to move people and weaponry.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden finally said he “supports” a ceasefire in his third call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, according to a White House statement. Biden discussed Washington cooperating with “Egypt and other partners” to work towards a ceasefire, but did not call for an end to the violence. This came as the US blocked the UN Security Council from issuing a public statement condemning the violence, with White House spokesperson Jen Psaki describing the US’ approach to the issue as “quiet, intensive diplomacy.” The UN General Assembly is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the attacks, according to Reuters.

The Biden administration has reportedly signed off on a USD 735 mn arms sale to Israel, with Congress approval expected to move ahead without objections. Congress was initially informed of the sale last month, prior to the escalation of violence.

Egypt called for an immediate end to Israel’s attacks on Palestine during a meeting between President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris yesterday, in which the two heads of state discussed tackling terrorism and de-esclating the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, according to an Ittihadiya statement.

Gaza will be on the agenda for Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias when he lands in Cairo on Thursday for talks with FM Sameh Shoukry, Greek media reported yesterday. Dendias is in Israel and Palestine today, followed by a visit to Jordan tomorrow before he lands in Cairo. Shoukry, Dendias and Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok discussed in a phone call yesterday efforts to achieve a ceasefire, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said, without disclosing further details.

MEANWHILE- Turkey’s initial efforts to repair ties with Saudi Arabia ended similarly to their Egypt diplomatic offensive: Inconclusively. Bilateral talks last week between the Turkish and Saudi foreign ministers ended with both sides pledging to continue working to solve sources of tension but with little concrete progress. Similar discussions between Egyptian and Turkish officials in Cairo last week ended without a breakthrough.

Also worth knowing this morning: Lebanon has lost almost a quarter of its electricity supply after Turkey's Karpowership stopped operations at two floating power plants due to USD 100 mn in unpaid arrears, Reuters reports, citing a statement by the company.

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