The Group of Seven (G7) bloc of wealthy democracies risks eroding its relevance as a force to tackle major geopolitical crises over an apparent struggle between its member nations to agree on a firm, united approach to Israel’s war in Gaza.
Foreign ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the European Union and the United States meet in Tokyo this week to discuss the conflict, which several global powers have warned could spiral and engulf the Middle East.
If ministers do issue a communique after the meeting, it will likely address the conflict in general terms, reflecting the different concerns, and the divergent political and economic loyalties within the group, analysts say.
“Europeans are divided and this division is also certainly visible within the G7,” said Thomas Gomart, director of the French Institute of International Relations.
Complicating matters is that the current chair of the group Japan has taken a cautious approach to the crisis, resisting pressure to fall in line with the pro-Israel stance of its closest ally, the United States, officials and analysts say.
Officials from France and Canada, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said the strong US support for Israel, and concerns about a backlash from either Arab or Jewish segments of the populations of the G7 nations, have made reaching common positions challenging.
From the beginning of the conflict, Japan has sought a “balanced” response, in part due to its diverse diplomatic interests in the region and its dependency on the Middle East for oil.
Israeli diplomats, however, have intensively lobbied Japan in phone calls, emails and visits to Japanese officials, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The mounting casualties in Gaza have reinforced Japan’s cautious approach, analysts say. Health officials in the Palestinian enclave say almost 10,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed since Israel’s bombardment began in retaliation for Oct. 7 attacks by the militant group Hamas.
“I don’t think ever in the past history of the G7 presidency under Japan it has come to this kind of a critical challenge,” said Koichiro Tanaka, a professor at Tokyo’s Keio University who specialises on international relations in the Middle East.
A spokesperson for Japan’s foreign ministry said it was expected that countries have different positions, but denied that G7 members were struggling to find common ground.
The spokesperson declined to confirm whether a communique would be issued. A statement issued by G7 trade ministers from a meeting in Osaka late last month did not mention the war.
The G7 was initially set up half a century ago to discuss global economic problems, but its scope has since broadened to represent the collective voice of major industrialised countries’ on political and security issues.
While the group in recent years has shown unity in sanctioning Russia over its Ukraine war and calling out so-called ‘economic coercion’ from China, they have not moved in lock step over the Israel-Gaza war.
Since the war erupted, the G7 has issued just one joint statement on the conflict amounting to a few sentences. Other group members have issued joint statements.
G7 divisions have also been evident at the United Nations, with France voting in favour of a resolution calling for a humanitarian truce in the conflict on Oct 26, the US opposing it and the group’s other members abstaining.John Geddie, Sakura Murakami and Kentaro Sugiyama, "G7’s political relevance at stake over Israel-Gaza response," Business recorder. 2023-11-07.
Keywords: Political science , Political leadership , Diplomatic interests , Global powers , Global economic , Geopolitical crises , United States , Canada , France , Israel , Gaza , Germany , Italy , Japan