The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a matter of global concern, has prompted the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) to take proactive steps. On November 21, 2023, an extraordinary virtual summit, steered by Chinese President Xi Jinping, gathered the BRICS leaders to deliberate on a unified standpoint and response to the escalating conflict in Israel and Gaza.
The summit, attended by nations like Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Ethiopia, Argentina, and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, urged Israel and Hamas to exercise maximum restraint. The BRICS leaders denounced the violence affecting Palestinian and Israeli civilians and called for an immediate and lasting humanitarian truce, aiming to prevent further destabilization of the region.
Distinct from the US, Germany, Israel, the EU, and others, BRICS refrained from labeling Hamas as a terrorist organization. Instead, they reiterated their backing for a two-state solution, supporting the concept of an independent Palestinian state.
Chinese President Xi Jinping suggested an "international peace conference" to resolve the conflict, coinciding with representatives from the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Indonesia visiting Beijing for discussions.
The summit wasn't devoid of controversy. South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa accused Israel of war crimes, a charge Israel strongly refuted. In reaction to the conflict, South Africa involved the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigations and withdrew all its diplomats from Israel, prompting Israel to recall its ambassador to South Africa.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite Russia's ongoing Ukraine invasion, criticized the US and suggested BRICS could mediate the conflict. Putin attributed the ongoing Gaza conflict to US unilateralism, claiming it had marginalized other Middle East Quartet members, including Russia, the UN, and the EU.
The Palestinian Health Ministry reports that the Israeli bombardment of Gaza has resulted in over 13,000 civilian casualties, emphasizing the urgency for an immediate ceasefire, a stance strongly advocated by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The summit's joint statement urged Israel to adhere to international humanitarian law and allow “unrestricted and sustained humanitarian access”. It also cautioned Israel against displacing Palestinians from Gaza. Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi demanded a binding resolution to halt attacks on Gaza and label Israel as a terrorist regime, while Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman criticized the killing of innocent civilians and the destruction of health facilities and places of worship.
The BRICS meeting, a precursor to a virtual G20 meeting hosted by India, demonstrates the growing influence of BRICS as a counterbalance to the Western G7 group. A delegation of Arab diplomats, appointed by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, is visiting various capitals to garner support, with China and Russia being their initial stops.
The Egyptian foreign ministry stated that the diplomats have drafted a new resolution to address hurdles and imbalances in humanitarian aid delivery to Gaza. Egypt condemns the continued bombing targeting displaced people in the south, viewing it as an attempt to enforce displacement of Palestinians.
In conclusion, the BRICS summit, with its call for de-escalation and resolution, has amplified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in international discourse. The world now eagerly anticipates the outcome of these diplomatic efforts towards achieving peace in the region.