By Sakura Murakami and John Geddie
TOKYO (Reuters) -G7 foreign ministers on Wednesday called for humanitarian pauses in the Israel-Hamas war to allow in aid and help the release of hostages, and sought a return to a broader peace process.
Ending a two-day meeting in Tokyo as Israeli forces continued to pound the Gaza Strip, the Group of Seven wealthy nations said in a joint statement that Israel had the right to defend itself. But they also underscored the need to protect civilians and to comply with international humanitarian law.
G7 members are committed to preparing long-term solutions for Gaza and a return to a broader peace process in the Israel-Palestinian conflict “in line with the internationally agreed parameters,” the statement said.
The ministers shared the view that “a two-state solution… remains the only path to a just, lasting, and secure peace”.
It was only the second joint statement from the G7 since gunmen from the Palestinian militant group Hamas triggered the war with an attack on southern Israel on Oct.7, killing 1,400 people and taking some 240 hostages.
The Israeli bombardment of Gaza has since killed more than 10,000 Palestinians, around 40% of them children, according to counts by health officials in the Hamas-ruled territory.
“I believe it’s important that the G7 was able to put out its first unified message as a statement regarding a humanitarian pause… in terms of the responsibility the G7 has towards the international community,” Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa told reporters.
Asked whether all G7 members were calling for humanitarian pauses or whether some favoured a full ceasefire, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the statement accurately reflected what was discussed and that there was “real unity” among the bloc.
The communique also reiterated G7 support for Ukraine in its war with Russia, highlighted the need for frank engagement with China and condemned North Korea’s missile tests and arms transfers to Russia.
The G7 comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, with the European Union also taking part in the talks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel would consider “tactical little pauses” but has rejected calls for a ceasefire that it says would allow Hamas to regroup.
The G7 had appeared to struggle to agree on a firm, united approach to the war, raising questions over its relevance as a force to tackle major crises.
On Tuesday, the ministers also discussed what happens after the Gaza conflict ends and how to revitalise peace efforts in the Middle East.
Israel has been vague about its long-term plans for Gaza. In some of the first direct comments on the subject, Netanyahu said this week that Israel would seek to have security responsibility for Gaza “for an indefinite period”.
But Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told the Wall Street Journal that Israel wanted the territory to be under an international coalition, including the U.S., European Union and Muslim-majority countries, or administered by Gaza political leaders.
Blinken told reporters following the G7 meetings that Gaza could not be under Hamas or Israeli control.
“Now, the reality is that there may be a need for some transition period at the end of the conflict… We don’t see a reoccupation and what I’ve heard from Israeli leaders is that they have no intent to reoccupy Gaza,” he said.
Blinken also said sustained peace must involve a unified Gaza and West Bank governed by the Palestinian Authority and that there must be no forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza and no reduction in the enclave’s territory.
“We believe that the time is now to start the conversation about the future,” he said.
(Reporting by John Geddie and Sakura Murakami; additional reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama, Kiyoshi Takenaka, Chang-Ran Kim, and Francis Tang; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Gerry Doyle, Nick Macfie and Angus MacSwan)