APEC rows on Gaza, Ukraine

APEC rows on Gaza, Ukraine
aiwan's businessman and envoy Morris Chang speaks during a press conference on the last day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Week in San Francisco, California, on November 17, 2023 - AFP

Leaders of APEC were divided Friday on their response to wars in Ukraine and Gaza, with the Pacific Rim failing to agree on a response to the conflicts.

The 21 economies that make up the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum -- which includes Russia, China and the United States -- did not mention either conflict in their final joint communique.

Instead an accompanying chair's statement noted the bloc had merely "exchanged views on the ongoing crisis in Gaza."

Israel launched a punishing air and ground campaign last month pummeling the Gaza Strip, in an assault that the Hamas-run health ministry says has killed 12,000 people, mostly civilians.

That came in response to a cross-border assault on October 7 by Hamas gunmen that left around 1,200 dead, and saw 240 people taken hostage.

APEC is largely focused on trade, and groups countries as disparate as Muslim-majority Indonesia and the United States, Israel's most important ally.

"Some Leaders also shared the united messages of the Joint Arab-Islamic Summit in Riyadh on 11 November 2023," which accused Israel of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"Some Leaders objected to the inclusion of this language in the accompanying 2023 APEC Leaders’ Golden Gate Declaration on the basis that they do not believe that APEC is a forum to discuss geopolitical issues," the chair's statement said.

On Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the statement said there had been no accord.

"Most members strongly condemn the aggression against Ukraine and underscore the need to reach a just, and lasting peace based on the principles of the United Nations Charter, including the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political independence of Ukraine," it said.

"We note with deep concern the adverse impact of the war in Ukraine and stress that it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy."

Russian President Vladimir Putin was not among heads of state at the meeting -- and he faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for ordering the invasion of Ukraine.

The country was instead represented by Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk.