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G7 countries announce unified position on Israel-Hamas war after intensive meetings in Tokyo

TOKYO (AP) — Top diplomats from the Group of Seven’s major industrial democracies announced a unified position Wednesday on the war between Israel and Hamas after intensive meetings in Tokyo, condemning Hamas, supporting Israel’s right to self-defense and calling for “humanitarian pauses”. to speed up aid to desperate civilians in the Gaza Strip.

In a statement following two days of negotiations, the nations sought to balance unequivocal criticism of Hamas’s attacks on Israel with “the need for urgent action” to help civilians in the besieged Palestinian enclave.

“All parties must allow unhindered humanitarian support to civilians, including food, water, medical care, fuel and shelter, as well as access to humanitarian workers,” said the statement, hammered out by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the foreign ministers of Great Britain and Canada. , France, Germany, Japan and Italy. “We support humanitarian pauses and corridors to facilitate emergency assistance, civilian movements and hostage releases. »

The G7 meeting was, in part, an attempt to contain the worsening humanitarian crisis while preventing the deepening of broader differences over Gaza. It happened “at a very intense time for our countries and for the world,” Blinken said in a speech to reporters, adding that “the unity of the G7 is stronger and more important than ever.”

The ministers noted that the G7 is “working intensively to prevent the conflict from escalating further and spreading more widely”, and that it is also using sanctions and other measures “to deprive Hamas of the ability to collect and using funds to commit atrocities.” They also condemned “the rise in extremist settler violence against Palestinians”, which they consider “unacceptable, which undermines security in the West Bank and threatens the prospects for lasting peace”.

As diplomats met in downtown Tokyo, a United Nations agency said thousands of Palestinians from Gaza were fleeing south on foot with only what they could carry, after running out of food and supplies. water in the north. Israel said its troops were fighting Hamas militants deep inside Gaza City, which was home to some 650,000 people before the war and where the Israeli military says Hamas has its central command and a vast labyrinth of tunnels. The growing number of people heading south reflects an increasingly desperate situation in and around Gaza’s largest city, which has come under intense Israeli bombardment.

“We all want to end this conflict as quickly as possible while minimizing civilian suffering,” Blinken said. “But, as I have discussed with my G7 colleagues, those calling for an immediate ceasefire have an obligation to explain how to address the unacceptable outcome that would likely result: Hamas remaining in place with more than 200 hostages, with the capacity and declared intention to repeat the attacks of October 7 again and again.”

Looking to the post-war period, Blinken said “key elements should include no forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza. …No using Gaza as a platform for terrorism or other violent attacks. No reoccupation of Gaza after the end of the conflict. No attempt to blockade or besiege Gaza. No reduction in Gaza territory. We must also ensure that no terrorist threat can emanate from the West Bank. »

In addition to the month-long conflict in Gaza, which followed the Hamas attack in Israel on October 7 in which militants killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and captured 242, the G7 envoys have faced a series of other crises, including Russia’s war in Ukraine, North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and China’s growing aggressiveness in territorial disputes with its neighbors. There have also been efforts to cooperate to combat pandemics, synthetic opioids and threats from the misuse of artificial intelligence.

Long before Russia invaded Ukraine, the G7 united to defend the international order that emerged after the destruction of World War II. Despite some differences, the group maintained a united front in condemning and opposing the Russian invasion.

“Our unwavering commitment to supporting Ukraine’s struggle for its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity will never waver,” the statement said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said the G7 foreign ministers “strongly condemned North Korea’s repeated launches of ballistic missiles as well as North Korea’s arms transfers to Russia , which directly violate relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”

She stressed the need for G7 unity and cooperation to address global conflicts and tensions.

“G7 unity in the Indo-Pacific region is extremely important,” she said. “It is extremely important that the G7 engages candidly with China and expresses its concerns directly to it and works with it on global challenges and areas of common interest.”

Blinken has pushed to significantly increase the amount of humanitarian aid sent to Gaza and to get Israel to agree to “pauses” in its military operation to allow that aid in and more civilians out. Israel remains unconvinced and Arab and Muslim countries are demanding a complete and immediate ceasefire, which the United States opposes. There has also been resistance to discussing the future of Gaza, with Arab states insisting that the immediate humanitarian crisis must first be addressed.

There have been some small fissures within the G7 over Gaza, which have inflamed international public opinion. Democracies are not immune to intense passions that have manifested themselves in massive pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli protests in G7 capitals and elsewhere.

Last month at the UN Security Council, for example, France voted in favor of a resolution calling for a humanitarian truce in Gaza, which the United States vetoed because it did not did not go far enough in its condemnation of the Hamas attack on Israel, which sparked the crisis. war. Britain and Japan abstained in this vote.

Blinken arrived in Tokyo from Turkey, the final stop of a whirlwind four-day tour of the Middle East that began with visits to Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, Cyprus and Iraq. From Japan, he will go to South Korea then to India.

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