Statement to the press by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock following the G7 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Tokyo

08.11.2023 - Speech

It is always special to meet as the G7. Both the last year and a half and the last day and a half have shown that once again.

It is obvious why it is special. In the G7 we work with our closest international partners and friends, with whom we share common values of democracy, human rights and above all the understanding that we work together internationally on the basis of common rules and international law, and not according to the law of the strong.

With the G7, however, we also share the knowledge that our values have not been given to us as a gift, but that we must ceaselessly stand up for them, day in, day out. As strong and democratic economies, we have a special responsibility to do so for ourselves, but also for the international order. We have been doing this as Team G7 for almost two years in Ukraine and making clear that not only do we stand with Ukraine, we also stand on the side of international law and state sovereignty, and will do so for as long as Ukraine and thus international law needs this support. We are helping Ukraine to survive the coming winter as best as it can, given that Russia is planning another brutal energy war for this winter. The German Government alone has just set up a package of support for the winter worth 1.4 billion euro. And in the past weeks and months, the Chancellor and I have called worldwide for others to join this winter-support programme. I reiterated this call here in Tokyo today because more air-defence systems, especially Patriots, are needed to protect energy infrastructure, ports and civilian facilities in particular in the coming months, bearing in mind that temperatures fell as low as -20°C in Ukraine last winter.

Reconstruction will also play an important role as regards Ukraine’s security. Germany will host next year’s reconstruction conference in Berlin in June. This, too, is a special milestone for Ukraine’s sovereignty for the coming years.

One of our main aims for the reconstruction conference in Berlin next June is to join up the reconstruction and the EU accession process to an even greater extent. We must not forget that not only is Putin trying to separate Ukraine from us with his imperialistic thirst for power, he is also still attempting to destroy the European peace structure.

And this also poses a threat to Moldova, Georgia and the Western Balkans. Our neighbouring countries’ futures thus also determine our own future and our own peaceful order. That is why today’s announcement by the European Commission on accession negotiations is so important. This is not just about the accession of further countries ‒ this is also about strengthening our shared union of peace.

At the start of our G7 meeting last night here in Tokyo, we discussed the situation in the Middle East in depth. Hamas carried out a devastating massacre of Israeli women, children and men, of young and old people. And for us as the G7, it is clear that this massacre has not lost any of its monstrous brutality one month later. It continues to oblige us to stand up for Israel’s protection, especially because the terror organisation Hamas has not stopped its missile attacks against the country.

That is why we, as the G7, clearly underlined here once again that Israel not only has the right, but also the duty, to protect its population in line with international law. At the same time, we see the Palestinians’ suffering. The images from Gaza are heartrending. When we see parents desperately searching for their children in the rubble and ruins, when we see the concrete frames of high-rise buildings or families who have had nothing to eat or drink for days, then we all have a duty as the international community. No one can remain indifferent to the thousands of people who have been killed or injured in Gaza. No one can wish for anything other than that the people, the civilian population in Gaza, can live in peace and safety.

That is why we said at the G7 meeting that the terror perpetrated by Hamas does not absolve Israel of the responsibility to do everything it can to prevent civilian casualties and to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, as the fight is against Hamas and not the Palestinian civilian population. This is a terrible dilemma because Hamas very deliberately uses the civilian population in Gaza as part of its perfidious terrorist aim, namely to destroy Israel’s security. The terrible dilemma that we have been experiencing for weeks now is that Israel must defend itself to protect its population from terrorist missile attacks. And at the same time, the brutal dilemma is that Hamas’s terrorist cells deliberately use civilians in civilian infrastructure to enable the organisation to continue using and expanding its terror cells in these locations. Our clear appeal as the G7 is thus unequivocal: humanitarian pauses are needed in order to supply the people in Gaza, who are suffering so terribly, with the basic necessities of water, food and medical care.

And humanitarian breaks are needed so that the innocent Israeli hostages ‒ women, children, men, elderly people, wounded people ‒ can finally be free. We have been working for weeks on precisely this issue of facilitating these humanitarian pauses. To achieve this, many, many very concrete details need to be clarified. And we are doing this with a huge range of partners in the region. That, too, was one of the main topics at this G7 meeting.

As the G7, we also clearly underline here in Tokyo that we have not merely stood with the Palestinian civilian population in recent days, but rather for years. The G7 countries provide around two-thirds of the funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA) and have done so for the past years and not just very recently. For years, we have been the main donor of humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians, and in the past weeks and days, the G7 has jointly and significantly increased its support for the Palestinian people and UNWRA. That is why this meeting also calls for other financially strong countries, especially regional stakeholders, to contribute more to UNWRA, particularly those who claim to be especially committed to the Palestinian cause.

Even in the darkest hour of the conflict, we need to think about the next steps. That is why we are not only focusing on today, on acute crisis management and alleviating the terrible suffering, but also thinking about what comes afterwards. We need intelligent solutions on how and by whom Gaza can be run in the future. And we need practical steps towards a two-state solution, even if it may be a long way off. I already suggested ideas for this at the EU Foreign Affairs Council two weeks ago. My US counterpart and friend Tony Blinken just discussed various proposals with some Arab countries. And we also discussed these proposals in depth here at this G7 meeting. This means that when we think beyond today in order to provide prospects for a two-state solution and for Gaza, we need to set a clear course:

Firstly, this means that Gaza must not be able to pose a terrorist threat to Israel’s security in the future. Secondly, it means that the Palestinians must not be driven out of Gaza. Thirdly, it means that Gaza must not be occupied, but ideally be placed under international protection. Fourthly, it means that there should be no aim to reduce Gaza’s territory. And fifthly, it means that no solution can be decided above the heads of the Palestinian people and that the whole issue must be addressed in the understanding that the people in Israel and Palestine all have the right to finally live in peace and security in the future.

In view of this huge crisis in the Middle East and of Russia’s ongoing terrible war against Ukraine, the actual main topic of this meeting chosen by the Japanese G7 Presidency may not have attracted as much attention in the media, but it did play an important role here. Japan actually chose the Pacific as the main topic for its G7 Presidency, and rightfully so.

Two-thirds of global growth come from the Pacific region. At the same time, we see tensions here, and in the meantime, they are not merely grim potential scenarios. They are now palpable. Just two weeks ago, a dangerous manoeuvre by a ship belonging to the Chinese coastguard led to a collision in the South China Sea with a replenishment ship from the Philippines. China’s military threats against Taiwan are continuing to increase.

North Korea is firing more test missiles than ever before into the sea. Our partners in the region are facing a tough time even if we do not realise this so clearly in view of the global crises. But we have assured our partners here in the region that we also stand with them when things get tough. Here too, we as the G7 are waving the flag in the region for clear rules in interactions between states, for international law.

The world cannot afford further conflicts. For the first time at a G7 meeting, the five Central Asian countries took part as guests, at least by video conference. The countries of central Asia always hoped to be a link between Russia, China and Europe. Now they find themselves caught up between all three. The question is who will strengthen cooperation further with them in this situation. The economic potential is huge. The question of how these countries will develop not only economically, but also as societies, is still very open in some cases. That is why it is so important for us to make clear that not only do we want to strengthen the economic opportunities together, we also want to help foster these societies’ democratic progress.

This also means improving connections between Central Asia and Europe, for example via the EU Global Gateway initiative. In a world increasingly characterised by systemic rivalry, a world in which authoritarian actors are attempting ever more aggressively to mark their zones of influence, a world whose conflicts are making geopolitical fault lines deeper, we as the G7 want to reach out to partners. As democracies, we can only withstand systemic competition with authoritarian forces if our friends around the globe and societies feel that we mean it seriously when we talk about a reliable partnership founded on a rules-based order and not on the law of the strong.

Thank you very much.


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