/ 21 November 2023

Brics leaders call for immediate truce in Israeli-Hamas war

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President of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, President of China Xi Jinping, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pose for a BRICS family photo during the 2023 BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Leaders of Brics nations, along with those of the six countries invited to join the club, on Tuesday urged an immediate ceasefire in the Israeli-Hamas conflict and the release of all hostages, in a joint communique after a virtual summit chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“The chair joined calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all civilians who are being illegally held captive, demanding that their safety, and well-being are guaranteed, and that humane treatment is accorded to them in compliance with international law,” the statement released after a two-hour meeting read. 

The bloc, which groups Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa, deplored acts of violence against civilians on both sides of the conflict and demanded that war crimes be investigated without delay.

“We emphasised that civilians must be protected, in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”

They condemned “all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction”, along with the forced displacement of Palestinians living in Gaza.

“Many leaders reiterated that the forced transfer and deportation of Palestinians, whether inside Gaza or to neighbouring countries, constitute grave breaches of the Geneva conventions and war crimes and violations under international humanitarian law.”

In opening remarks to the summit, China’s President Xi Jinping accused Israel of inflicting “collective punishment” on Palestinians for Hamas’s deadly incursion into southern Israel on 7 October. He said China would provide more humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.

The virtual meeting was joined by United Nations secretary general António Guterres, and the group expressed support for the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution adopted a week ago, which called for immediate and urgent days-long humanitarian pauses in the war to allow aid to reach civilians in Gaza.

“We reaffirmed the primary role of the UNSC in maintaining international peace and security. We joined other global leaders in welcoming the adoption of UNSC resolution 2712 on 15 November 2023 under China’s UNSC presidency and called for its full implementation.”

While expressing concern that the conflict could spill over into other parts of the Middle East, the Brics group stressed that a lasting truce can only be achieved through peaceful means.

Their joint communique closed with a call by Ramaphosa for the international community to support direct negotiations towards a two-state solution “leading to the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable state of Palestine”.

In opening remarks to the summit Ramaphosa said he believed Brics had a vital role to play, as a voice of the Global South, in international efforts to end the conflict and deplored Israel’s ongoing onslaught on Gaza in the strongest terms.

“The deliberate denial of medicine, fuel, food and water to the residents of Gaza is tantamount to genocide,” he said

“Let this meeting stand as a clarion call for us to combine our efforts and strengthen our actions to end this historical injustice.”

The virtual summit was seen as a test of unity for the current members of the bloc, and those who will join in January — Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

It came against the backdrop of a decision by South Africa to recall all its diplomats from its embassy in Tel Aviv and to refer Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the International Criminal Court. Israel has responded by recalling its ambassador to Pretoria, citing South Africa’s “latest statements” — a pointed reference to its criticism of the attacks on Gaza.

On Tuesday evening, the National Assembly adopted an opposition motion that diplomatic ties with Israel be suspended.