US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed on Friday in Turkey, initiating his fourth tour of the Middle East since the onset of the Israel-Hamas conflict three months ago.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Turkey on Friday to start his fourth Middle East crisis tour since the start of the Israel-Hamas war three months ago.

The top American diplomat will visit Israel, the Palestinian Authority base in the West Bank and five Arab countries—Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller announced.

Blinken will hold talks in Istanbul on Saturday with his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one of the Muslim world’s harshest critics of US support for Israel in the war. “We don’t expect every conversation on this trip to be easy. There are obviously tough issues facing the region and difficult choices ahead,” Miller told reporters. “But the Secretary believes it is the responsibility of the United States of America to lead diplomatic efforts to tackle those challenges head on,” he added.

Blinken has used previous trips to try to stop the war from spreading. But he returns to a region that has seen attacks in or from Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Iran.

A strike inside Lebanon widely assumed to have been carried out by Israel killed a top Hamas leader on Tuesday. Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been firing on ships in the Red Sea in avowed solidarity with Gaza.

Iran was in turn hit on Wednesday by one of the deadliest attacks since its 1979 Islamic revolution, with twin blasts killing at least 89 people gathered to commemorate slain Revolutionary Guard General Qasem Soleimani.

Tehran initially blamed Israel and the United States, although the Islamic State group later claimed responsibility.

The United States has twice exercised its veto at the UN Security Council against ceasefire calls, drawing outrage in the Arab world, and just days ago Blinken for the second time bypassed Congress to rush weapons to Israel.

Khalil Wakim, with AFP