17:23 GMT16 April 2021
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    Earlier Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the reversal of a Trump-era executive order that sanctioned International Criminal Court (ICC) officials and restricted the issuance of visas to Court personnel. At the same time, Blinken emphasized Washington disagrees with the ICC war crimes probes into both the US and Israel.

    During a Friday phone call, Blinken and his Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, discussed a number of topics, including regional security challenges for the Israeli government, humanitarian assistance for Palestinians and "the normalization of relations with Arab and Muslim majority countries," detailed State Department spokesperson Ned Price. 

    "The Secretary emphasized the Administration’s belief that Israelis and Palestinians should enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy," Price said. "The Secretary reiterated the United States’ strong commitment to Israel and its security and looks forward to strengthening all aspects of the US-Israel partnership."

    Price's statement on the US-Israel government phone call made no mention of US President Joe Biden's decision to cease sanctions against ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko, head of the ICC Jurisdiction, Complementary, and Cooperation Division. 

    Bensouda notably announced in March that the Court would probe alleged war crimes perpetrated by the Israel Defense Forces and other military groups since June 2014. 

    The probe follows a preliminary examination, in which Bensouda's office "engaged with a wide array of stakeholders, including in regular and productive meetings with representatives of the Governments of Palestine and Israel, respectively." 

    Formal notices on the investigation were issued to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). 

    Last week, Israel moved to suspend the travel permit of Riyad al-Maliki, foreign minister of the PA, following his visit to the ICC. That same day, al-Maliki's team was interrogated by Israeli intelligence officials. 

    "The minister was held up for around half an hour, and his staff was delayed for around an hour, all told," PA Foreign Ministry official Ahmad al-Deek detailed, noting the foreign minister was stopped while traveling from Jordan to the West Bank.

    Earlier in March, UAE-based The National outlet reported, citing an official document of the US State Department, that Washington planned to reset relations with Palestine, reversing several steps taken by the previous administration that favored Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and ignored the two-state solution principle as a basis for settling the longstanding conflict.

    Russia has welcomed US declarations in support of the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but expects the Biden administration to walk the talk. "Our approach to this [MidEast peace process] has been confirmed through our stance on the international arena and concrete work in international organizations. At the moment, the similarities in our and US approaches are only confirmed by [US] statements. That is why we need to wait for concrete actions," the Russian Foreign Ministry said last week.

    Tensions heightened in the region after former US President Donald Trump unveiled his peace plan for the Middle East, which, among other things, stipulated Israel incorporating the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and keeping Jerusalem as its capital. The move was rejected by the Palestinian leadership, which later terminated all treaties with the United States and Israel.

    The two-state solution envisages creating a Palestinian state that will peacefully cooperate with the existing State of Israel, laying out the foundation for lasting peace in the Middle East.

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    Tags:
    International Criminal Court (ICC), ICC, war crimes investigation, war crimes, Trump Administration, Biden Administration, Antony Blinken, Israel
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