Brics group leaders call for Israel-Gaza ceasefire in virtual summit

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa accuses Israel of war crimes and actions 'tantamount to genocide' in Gaza

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks on screen as Russian President Vladimir Putin watches on from Moscow at the Brics virtual summit. EPA
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World leaders on Tuesday called for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip during a virtual summit of the Brics group aimed at drawing up a common response to the escalation of violence in Gaza.

“The international community has a great responsibility to pursue all efforts aimed at ending the conflict and achieving a fair and lasting peace,” President Sheikh Mohamed said virtually during the meeting.

"At a virtual Brics summit discussing the situation in the Gaza Strip, the UAE reiterated its call for the protection of civilian lives, unrestricted humanitarian access, and an immediate ceasefire," President Sheikh Mohamed wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman called for a comprehensive peace process aimed at establishing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

“The kingdom’s position is constant and firm; there is no way to achieve security and stability in Palestine except through the implementation of international decisions related to the two-state solution,” Prince Mohammed said.

The Brics group consists of the major emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran and the UAE have also joined and will formally become members on January 1.

The group did not publish a joint declaration from the summit.

South Africa, which was hosting the meeting, accused Israel of war crimes and actions "tantamount to genocide" in the Palestinian territory.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said: "The collective punishment of Palestinian civilians through the unlawful use of force by Israel is a war crime. The deliberate denial of medicine, fuel, food and water to the residents of Gaza is tantamount to genocide."

A long-term diplomatic solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was needed to ensure peace, Brics leaders said, with Chinese President Xi Jinping calling for an "international peace conference" to achieve that goal.

"There can be no sustainable peace and security in the Middle East without a just solution to the question of Palestine," Mr Xi said, speaking through an interpreter.

He called parties to the conflict to "immediately cease fire and hostilities, stop all violence and attacks targeting civilians and release civilian detainees to avoid more loss of lives and suffering".

Brics, an acronym for its original five member countries, sees itself as a counterweight to the US and western-led global order.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has accused the West of stoking tensions in the Middle East and criticised Israel for its conduct in the conflict, said a "long-term and sustainable ceasefire" was key to "prevent other states from being drawn into the war".

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Hamas's attack and hostage-taking was a "barbaric act".

"However, the attack does not justify the use of indiscriminate and disproportionate force against civilians," he added.

On October 7, Hamas fighters killed 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, and took about 240 hostages during cross-border raids considered to be the bloodiest attack in Israel’s history.

In retaliation, Israel launched a relentless bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza, killing more than 13,000 people, mostly women and children, according to the Ministry of Health in the enclave.

Updated: November 21, 2023, 5:11 PM