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At climate summit, Turkey, South Africa hit out at Israel over Gaza war


U.N.'s COP28 climate summit in Dubai

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan delivers a national statement at the World Climate Action Summit during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 1, 2023. REUTERS/Thaier Al Sudani Acquire Licensing Rights

DUBAI, Dec 1 (Reuters) – As the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas collapsed, some world leaders at the U.N. climate summit criticized Israel on Friday and called for the Gaza war to end, while U.S. and UK officials held meetings on the conflict on the gathering’s sidelines.

The war’s prominence in speeches at the Dubai event served to highlight international divisions over the bloodshed and presented a distraction for a summit where nations are trying to find consensus on the shared threat posed by climate change.

“While discussing the climate crisis, we cannot ignore the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Palestinian territories right beside us,” Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan told leaders during his formal speech to the COP28 conference.

“The current situation in Gaza constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity; those responsible must be held accountable under international law,” he said.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa echoed the sentiment.

“South Africa is appalled by the cruel tragedy that is under way in Gaza. The war against the innocent people of Palestine is a war crime that must be ended now,” he said in his address.

Jordan’s King Abdullah said it was difficult to focus on global warming while the fighting was going on.

“This year’s conference of the parties must recognise even more than ever that we cannot talk about climate change in isolation from the humanitarian tragedies unfolding around us,” he said.

A group of demonstrators at the conference, some wearing shirts that spelled “ceasefire”, chanted “Free Palestine”. Elsewhere on the summit grounds, a display of shoes was meant to represent the thousands killed in Gaza.

An Israeli official told Reuters the military was abiding by international law and was intent on destroying the militant group Hamas.

Protests, while a common feature of climate conferences, are a rarity in the autocratic United Arab Emirates, the COP28’s host nation. A COP28 spokesperson said “the UAE protects the right to protests in line with relevant international agreements.”

“Today was pretty awful,” Mohammed Ursof, a Palestinian student from Gaza based in Qatar and attending the summit, said of the resumption in fighting. The “international youth delegate” said he would try to raise awareness at the COP28 conference of the Palestinian cause.

BILATERALS

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that he met officials from Arab states and discussed the future of the Gaza Strip on the sidelines of the COP28. A senior State Department official said Blinken met foreign ministers from Qatar, the UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Bahrain, alongside representatives of the Palestinian Authority.

The office of the British prime minister said Rishi Sunak and Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, both at the Dubai conference, discussed their deep regret over the collapse of the temporary pause in fighting.

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog was also at COP28, where a day earlier he met UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The UAE is one of few Arab states with official ties with Israel

But Herzog, who stood in the traditional “family photo” with other world leaders, did not give his scheduled address on Friday.

Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General Oded Joseph told Reuters that Israel remained intent on freeing those held hostage by Hamas and destroying the militant group.

Israel’s bombardment and invasion of Gaza has killed over 15,000 Palestinians, according to Gazan health officials. It was launched in retaliation for an attack by Hamas militants on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 Israelis and foreigners, and led to 240 hostages being taken into Gaza.

The assault sparked outrage in the Arab world, though most Western leaders have supported what they say is Israel’s right to defend itself. Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza on Friday.

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Iraq’s President Abdul Latif Rashid called for an end to the war.

Iran’s delegation left the summit in protest at Israel’s presence, Iranian media reported, while Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro linked environmental issues with the war.

“If Palestine could be free today then tomorrow humanity will escape alive out of the throes of the climate crisis,” he said.

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell, Nadine Awadalla, Jana Choukeir, Huseyin Hayatsever, Mai Shams El-Din and Reuters COP28 team, editing by Richard Valdmanis, William Maclean

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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