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Blinken calls for G7 'clear voice' on Gaza

TOKYO: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Tuesday (Nov 7) on the G7 to speak “in a clear voice” about the Israel-Hamas war as he kicked off talks with fellow foreign ministers from the grouping in Japan.

“This is a very important moment … for the G7 to come together in the face of this crisis and speak as we do in one clear voice,” Blinken said at the start of the two-day meeting in Tokyo.

The Israeli military has relentlessly bombarded Gaza since Oct 7, when Hamas militants launched an attack that left 1,400 dead in Israel, most of them civilians, according to Israeli authorities.

The Hamas-run health ministry said the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 10,000 people – including more than 4,000 children.

Arriving in Tokyo following his latest whirlwind tour of the Middle East, Blinken was set to “brief his counterparts on his trip … and progress on delivering humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza and efforts to contain the conflict”, a senior State Department official said.

In Türkiye on Monday, Blinken had said Washington was working “very aggressively” to expand aid for trapped civilians.

“I think we will see in the days ahead that the assistance can expand in significant ways,” Blinken added, without providing details.

A key ally of Israel, the United States has resisted calling for a ceasefire, insisting that Israel has the right to respond – though Washington has called for pauses in the fighting.

US President Joe Biden and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed potential “tactical pauses”, the White House said. But no agreements were announced and the pair did not broach the possibility of a ceasefire.

Netanyahu on Monday said the war would continue until Israel had restored “overall security” control of Gaza.

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France was the only G7 member to vote in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution last month seeking an immediate “humanitarian truce”.

The United States voted against it while Japan, Britain, Italy, Germany and Canada all abstained.

France said in a statement announcing Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna’s attendance in Tokyo that the G7 would discuss “the need to respond to the needs of civilian populations in Gaza and to respect international humanitarian law.”

Colonna “will reiterate our condemnation of the terrorist actions of Hamas and the imperative of releasing the hostages”, the statement added.

Japanese counterpart Yoko Kamikawa said at the start of a working dinner devoted to the Gaza situation that she wanted a “candid and deep discussion”.

UKRAINE WAR

Another major topic at will be the Ukraine war, with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba set to join by video conference.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said after arriving in Tokyo that the G7 would discuss a “winter protection shield” for Ukraine.

“It is clear, particularly at this moment, that some (parties) are watching very closely how we will continue to support Ukraine,” Baerbock told reporters.

Analysts said however that the G7 might moderate its language regarding China as tentative signs emerge that Beijing’s tensions with the West may be easing.

These include upcoming talks between the United States and China ahead of the COP28 climate conference and President Xi Jinping’s scheduled meeting with US President Joe Biden in San Francisco.

Another G7 topic will be deepening ties with resource-rich and strategically located Central Asia, with foreign ministers from the region set also to join by video.

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