Diplomats from the G7 leading industrial democracies have announced a unified stance on the Israel-Hamas war after intensive meetings in Tokyo.
The representatives condemned Hamas, supported Israel’s right to self-defence and called for “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting to speed up aid for desperate Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.
In a statement, the nations sought to balance criticism of Hamas’ attacks on Israel with a push for “urgent action” to help civilians in the besieged Palestinian enclave in need of food, water, medical care and shelter.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken and foreign ministers from the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Italy emphasised that they “support humanitarian pauses to facilitate urgently needed assistance, civilian movement and release of hostages”.
There was also condemnation of “the rise in extremist settler violence committed against Palestinians”, which the ministers said is “unacceptable, undermines security in the West Bank, and threatens prospects for a lasting peace”.
The statement said: “All parties must allow unimpeded humanitarian support for civilians, including food, water, medical care, fuel and shelter, and access for humanitarian workers.
“We support humanitarian pauses and corridors to facilitate urgently needed assistance, civilian movement and the release of hostages.”
The G7 meeting was, in part, an attempt to contain the worsening humanitarian crisis while also keeping broader differences on Gaza from deepening.
It came “at a very intense time for our countries and for the world”, Mr Blinken told reporters, adding that “G7 unity 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 also using sanctions and other measures “to deny Hamas the ability to raise and use funds to carry out atrocities”.
Mr Blinken said: “All of us want to end this conflict as soon as possible and meanwhile to minimise civilian suffering.
“But, as I discussed with my G7 colleagues, those calling for an immediate ceasefire have an obligation to explain how to address the unacceptable result that would likely bring about: Hamas left in place with more than 200 hostages, with a capacity and stated intent to repeat October 7 again and again and again.”
Looking ahead to after the war, Mr Blinken said “key elements should include no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza. … No use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism or other violent attacks. No reoccupation of Gaza after the conflict ends. No attempt to blockade or besiege Gaza. No reduction in the territory of Gaza. We must also ensure no terrorist threats can emanate from the West Bank”.
Besides the month-long conflict in Gaza, G7 envoys dealt with a flurry of other crises, including Russia’s war in Ukraine, North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and China’s growing aggression in territorial disputes with its neighbours.
There has also been a push for cooperation to combat pandemics, synthetic opioids, and threats from the misuse of artificial intelligence.
Since before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the G7 has held together in defence of the international order that originally emerged after the destruction of the Second World War.
Despite some fraying around the edges, the group has preserved a unified front in condemning and opposing Russia’s invasion.
“Our steadfast commitment to supporting Ukraine’s fight for its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity will never waver,” the statement said.
Japanese foreign minister Yoko Kamikawa also said that G7 foreign ministers “strongly condemned North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches as well as arms transfers from North Korea to Russia, which directly violate relevant UN Security Council resolutions”.
Mr Blinken has been pushing to significantly expand the amount of humanitarian aid being sent to Gaza, and getting Israel to agree to “pauses” in its military operation to allow that assistance to get in and more civilians to get out.
Israel remains unconvinced and Arab and Muslim nations are demanding an immediate full ceasefire, something the United States opposes.
There has also been resistance to discussing Gaza’s future, with the Arab states insisting that the immediate humanitarian crisis must be addressed first.
There have been some small cracks in the G7 over Gaza, which has inflamed international public opinion. Democracies are not immune from intense passions that have manifested themselves in massive pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel demonstrations in G7 capitals and elsewhere.
Last month in the UN Security Council, for instance, France voted in favour of a resolution calling for a humanitarian truce in Gaza that was vetoed by the United States because it did not go far enough in condemning Hamas’ attack on Israel which ignited the war. The UK abstained in that vote.
As the diplomats met in Tokyo, a UN agency said thousands of Palestinians are fleeing south on foot in Gaza with only what they can carry after running out of food and water in the north.
Israel said its troops are battling Hamas militants deep inside Gaza City, which was home to about 650,000 people before the war and where the Israeli military says Hamas has its central command and a vast labyrinth of tunnels.