RIYADH: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday, the first stop in a broader trip to the Middle East to discuss issues including the governance of Gaza once the war with Israel ends.

Speaking in Riyadh at the opening of a US-Gulf Cooperation Council meeting, Blinken said the most effective way to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza was to achieve a ceasefire. He also said Washington continued efforts to prevent the Gaza war from expanding.

The United States has seen “measurable progress” in the humanitarian situation in Gaza over the past few weeks, he said, but urged Israel to do more.

Blinken also told the GCC ministers that Iran’s confrontation with Israel showed the need for greater defense integration.

“This attack highlights the acute and growing threat from Iran but also the imperative that we work together on integrated defence.”

The top US diplomat met separately with Saudi Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, where they reviewed ways to strengthen bilateral relations and joint cooperation in various fields, the Saudi Press Agency said.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Saudi Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Manal Radwan, foreign ministry advisor, and Mr. Muhammad Al-Yahya, advisor to  the minister of foreign affairs. (SPA)

During his visit, Blinken is expected to meet with senior Saudi leaders and hold a wider meeting with counterparts from five Arab states – Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan – to further the discussions on what governance of the Gaza Strip would look like after the war, according to a senior State Department official.

Later this week, the top US diplomat heads to Israel, where he is expected to press Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take the concrete and tangible steps US President Joe Biden demanded this month to improve the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Blinken is also expected to bring together Arab countries with the European states and discuss how Europe can help the rebuilding effort of the tiny enclave, which has been reduced to a wasteland in the six-month long Israeli bombardment.

A group of European nations, including Norway, plan to recognise Palestinian statehood in conjunction with the presentation of an Arab state-backed peace plan to the United Nations.

“We can see by joining forces we can make this more meaningful. We really want to recognise the Palestinian state, but we know that is something you do once,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told Reuters on the sidelines of a World Economic Forum meeting in Riyadh.

Blinkin’s trip comes as Egypt was expected to host leaders of the Islamist group Hamas to discuss prospects for a ceasefire agreement with Israel.