TOKYO – Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said Tuesday that the international community needs to cooperate toward a humanitarian pause in the Israel-Hamas war to deliver essential supplies for civilians in the Gaza Strip at a meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers.
After the first day’s working dinner session of their two-day gathering in Tokyo, Kamikawa also told reporters that they will express their “united stance” on the latest Middle East situation in a statement on Wednesday.
The Japanese foreign minister said that Israel launched fierce bombardments of the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory in response to “terror attacks” by the Palestinian militant group last month.
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa speaks to reporters in Tokyo on Nov. 7, 2023, after a meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers. (Kyodo)
Her remarks came amid mounting criticisms over the proportionality of Israel’s air and ground attacks, which some say violate international law, in retaliation for Hamas’ surprise cross-border rampage on Oct. 7.
“I believe that Israel has a right to defend itself and its citizens against those terror attacks like other sovereign states do,” Kamikawa added.
Still, she said Japan has told Israel that its actions must be in accordance with international law.
Kamikawa also said at the meeting that freeing hostages held by Hamas and improving the humanitarian situation are “top priority matters,” and “humanitarian access” should be secured as a precondition for adequate aid supplies.
On Wednesday, Japan, which holds the rotating G7 presidency this year, is preparing five sessions, according to the Foreign Ministry.
The major democracies are planning to condemn Hamas in the statement for its surprise attack on Israel that triggered the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza, government sources said.
The war has so far killed more than 10,000 people in Gaza, as well as over 1,400 in Israel.
Kamikawa, who is chairing the first gathering of the G7’s top diplomats since the start of the conflict, is scheduled to hold a wrap-up press conference on Wednesday, the ministry said.
Israel has expanded its air and ground operations despite growing calls from the international community for a humanitarian cease-fire. With Israel accused of using disproportionate force, some nations have recalled their ambassadors and even cut diplomatic relations.
Kamikawa said at a press conference Tuesday prior to the G-7 meeting that she and her G7 counterparts, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, would “have in-depth discussions” on issues related to the Middle East.
“We will tenaciously continue our efforts to calm the situation as soon as possible and improve humanitarian conditions by closely communicating with related nations and institutions,” said Kamikawa, who assumed her post in mid-September.
During the meeting, the foreign ministers are also slated to exchange views on developments in the Indo-Pacific region and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine launched in February last year, she added.
In the run-up to the G7 gathering, Kamikawa visited Israel, the West Bank and Jordan earlier this month for talks with her counterparts.
The G7 foreign ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, plus the European Union, also met in person in April in the resort town of Karuizawa in central Japan.
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