Washington’s top diplomat Antony Blinken said Saturday that he wants to make sure the conflict in the Middle East “doesn’t spread”, as he held meetings in Turkey and Greece.
Blinken, on a new tour of the Middle East, met Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Crete on Saturday, a few hours after a long meeting in Istanbul with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“One of the real concerns is the border between Israel and Lebanon, and we want to do everything possible to make sure we see no escalation,” he told journalists in Crete after the meeting.
Blinken said it was in nobody’s interest to escalate the conflict or allow it to spread beyond Gaza.
Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas militants from Gaza after their lightning attack on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
Israel since then has been carrying out a relentless bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza that have killed at least 22,722 people, according to the territory’s health ministry.
Blinken’s fourth crisis tour of the three-month-old Gaza war comes as fears mount that the conflict could engulf swathes of the Middle East.
He was also set to address Greece’s concerns about the looming sale of US fighter jets to Ankara — Athens has fiercely contested the US jet sales because of longstanding territorial disputes with Turkey in the energy-rich eastern Mediterranean region.
The Greek government said the two sides agreed there would be “further positive steps in the field of defense cooperation in the coming period”.
Greece is seeking to purchase a batch of more advanced F-35 jets from the United States to counter the perceived Turkish threat.
Blinken also said that he spoke at length with Mitsotakis about attacks by Huthi rebels disrupting shipping lanes and impacting international commerce, driving the price of food and gas up.
The Huthis say they are targeting Israel and Israeli-linked vessels to push for a stop to the offensive in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is battling Hamas militants.
During more than an hour of talks with Erdogan earlier Saturday, Blinken “emphasised the need to prevent the conflict from spreading”, the US State Department said.
Blinken also pointed to the need to “work toward broader, lasting regional peace that ensures Israel’s security and advances the establishment of a Palestinian state”, it said.
A Turkish diplomatic source said Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan pressed Blinken during a separate meeting for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza that could ensure the smooth delivery of aid.
The Turkish president has turned into one of the Muslim world’s harshest critics of Washington’s support for Israel’s Gaza campaign.
Erdogan has compared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler, and accused the United States of sponsoring the “genocide” of Palestinians.
He has also rebuffed US pressure to cut off the suspected flow of funding to Hamas through Turkey, and defended the group as legitimately elected “liberators” fighting for their land.
The US State Department on Friday announced $10 million in rewards for information about five alleged Hamas foreign operatives — three of them believed to be based in Turkey — who are thought to be helping finance the Iran-backed group.
Erdogan began to tone down his most strident comments after US President Joe Biden last month called the Turkish leader for the first time since the war broke out.
The call helped push along NATO member Turkey’s glacial progress in accepting Sweden into the US-led defence organisation in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
A key parliamentary committee approved Sweden’s application in late December.
Some analysts believe Biden’s call also secured Blinken’s meeting with Erdogan — the Turkish leader notably left the city during Blinken’s last visit two months ago.
Blinken entered the talks hoping to win assurances that a ratification vote on Sweden’s accession to NATO will be held soon by Turkey’s full parliament.
The State Department said Blinken and Erdogan discussed “completing Sweden’s accession to NATO and strengthening trade and investment between the United States and Turkey”.
Erdogan has been able to use Turkey’s veto power to impel Sweden into taking a tougher stance with Kurdish groups in Stockholm that Ankara views as “terrorists”.
He has also been trying to make Sweden’s approval conditional on the US delivering 40 F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernisation kits for Turkey’s ageing air force.
Biden’s administration officially backs the sale, but it has been unable to overcome resistance in Congress from lawmakers alarmed by Turkey’s position on Sweden and its past military standoffs with historic rival Greece.
Yoruba Nation: Igboho Accuses Buhari Of Attempting To Assassinate Him
Yoruba Nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo popularly known as Igboho, on Friday, said he came back to Nigeria by the power of God.
Igboho made the remark while accusing former President Muhammadu Buhari of attempting to assassinate him.
He alleged that Buhari sent the Department of State Services, DSS, and soldiers to assassinate him in his house.
Addressing his followers in Oyo State, the freedom fighter claimed that his agitation against Fulani herders killing of farmers in the Southwest was behind the move to assassinate him.
According to Igboho: “Buhari sent his soldiers and DSS to arrest me in my house because I said Yorubas are not slaves to Fulanis, they can’t suppress us in our father’s land.
“Fulanis can’t stop our fathers and mothers from going to their farms. But, I’m back with the power of God and authority not that of man.”
The freedom fighter returned to Nigeria on Thursday, ahead of his mother’s burial in the Saki area of Oyo State.
Igboho has been out of Nigeria since 2021 when he eloped to Benin Republic after he was declared wanted by the DSS.
DSS had invaded his residence in the Soka area of Oyo State but he escaped.
The secret police had declared him wanted over his agitation for Yoruba Nation and attacks on Fulani herders accused of killing farmers in the Southwest.
In Benin Republic, Igboho was arrested and remanded while attempting to travel to Germany.
However, he recently regained his freedom after two years in a Beninoise prison.
Alleged N30bn Disbursement: Nigerians Deserve To Know The Truth, Peter Obi Tells FG
Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP, has advised the Federal Government to give details on how they disturbed N30bn each to the 36 state governors to ameliorate inflation and high cost of food items.
Obi’s demand followed the claim by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, that an “unverified report” showed that state governors received N30 billion each from the federation account to alleviate the economic hardship and ravaging hunger in their respective domains.
However, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State dismissed the report, saying there was no truth in the claim by Akpabio that states of the federation got an additional N30 billion each outside of their statutory revenue allocations.
Obi, in a statement on his X handle on Friday, said the details of the disbursement should be explained for the interest of good governance and transparency.
According to him, it would enable the masses, for whom the support is meant, to follow through and ensure that it is utilized appropriately to their benefit.
He further appealed to the state governments to ensure that the resources are genuinely and transparently invested in productive ventures to alleviate the present hardship.
“Recently, the Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio, announced that a staggering financial support of N1.1 trillion, amounting to a sum of N30 billion each was doled out to the state governors to help ameliorate the present hardship in the country.
“While the Federal Government is to be commended for offering such a huge support, considering the difficult times people are going through, it is pertinent, for the interest of good governance and transparency, that the details of the disbursement of such support be explained further, so that the public, the masses for whom the support is meant, can follow through and ensure that it is utilized appropriately to the benefit of the people.
“While waiting for such details, I appeal that concerted efforts should be made to ensure that the resources are genuinely and transparently invested in productive ventures to alleviate present hardship and help the future growth of the country,” he wrote
NDLEA Officers Grateful Over Tinubu’s Support For Drug War – Marwa
Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Brig Gen Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) has expressed the appreciation of officers and men of the anti-narcotic agency to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his continuous support for the on-going efforts to curb the scourge of substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking in the country.
Marwa stated this in response to questions from journalists while inspecting facilities at the NDLEA barracks, which is almost ready for commissioning in Yola Adamawa state.
According to him, “We thank God for the project, we appreciate the continuity in governance. President Buhari appreciated the issues surrounding the security and welfare of staff.
“They seize, arrest, prosecute and deal with the criminals, yet the criminals come back to them because they live among them. But now we have the barracks for our personnel. President Buhari approved it and commenced it, and now President Tinubu has continued with same zeal and drive, so we appreciate this element of concern towards the NDLEA.”
While commending the standard and quality of work being done at the barracks, he said “Consultants, contractors have done very well, good quality, well monitored, best materials and design as you can see, and we are 95% done.
“We hope that by the grace of Allah, before the middle of this year, we’ll fully launch this first phase. We are targeting initially the six geopolitical zones to have a barrack each, for equity and balance and in the succeeding years, we hope the succeeding government will continue in all the 36 state commands, FCT, and Special Area commands.
“Our officers are all excited and willing to do more, because this is a testament to the good work that the officers have been doing that yielded this project and they are willing to do even more.”
In his response to another question, the NDLEA boss said beyond arrests, seizures and prosecution of drug traffickers and barons to address supply reduction, the agency is equally committed to reducing the demand for illicit substances by combining forces with other stakeholders to raise awareness and address the root causes of substance abuse.
“In 2018, a Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA) was set up, which I had the distinct honour of being the chairman. One of the major tasks that we had was to identify the root causes of drug abuse and trafficking and make recommendations which we did.
“In the process, we found that poverty is one of the key predisposing factors of drug use in all societies. It is important to note that it is not only Nigeria that has this problem, the whole world is facing it. So, in pursuing temporary relief, some people get into drugs.
“For this reason, I know for a fact that the president is determined to pull Nigerians out of poverty. And for the NDLEA and other institutions and stakeholders like the ministry of health, NAFDAC, etc, we are all combining efforts in drug demand reduction.”
He noted that the war against drug abuse is an all-encompassing one, which goes beyond the responsibility of only NDLEA.
“The media are in the forefront, the church is in the forefront, community leaders, Imams, clerics, educators, NGOs, traditional institutions, women and youth organizations; we all must collaborate with security agencies to stamp out drug abuse from this country.”
He hinted that in a matter of days he will be briefing the nation about a major seizure and some arrests made as part of ongoing efforts to dismantle drug cartels still operating between Nigeria and other countries in Africa, Europe and America.
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