The European Union's High Representative/Vice-President (HRVP), Josep Borrell, shared the position of the EU on the Israel-Hamas conflict in a written interview with The Sankei Shimbun and JAPAN Forward on November 7. He was in Tokyo for the Group of 7 Foreign Ministers' Meeting held from November 7 to 8.
Borrell strongly condemned Hamas for its indiscriminate acts of terrorism and called for the unconditional release of hostages. Furthermore, he emphasized that the only path to stability in the Middle East was the "two-state" solution, in which Israel and Palestine coexist as separate states. He also urged Japan, as the G7 chair, to support the peace process in collaboration with the EU and international partners.
Borrell also noted geopolitical tensions in two other parts of the world. One is China's growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region. The other is Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine, in which Borrell pledged that the EU would continue its support for the latter "as long as it takes."
Excerpts of the written interview follow.
What are your expectations of Japan's role as the G7 chair amid the Gaza conflict?
The EU appreciates Japan's active approach as the G7 Chair since the heinous attacks by Hamas on Israel on October 7. Japan has convened the G7 in different compositions to allow for discussion on the developing events, coordination and to share information.
The international community must remain united and committed to promoting stability and peace in the Middle East. The two-state solution, including the creation of a Palestinian state to live in peace with Israel, is the only way forward. The EU looks forward to cooperating with Japan, both bilaterally and in the G7, and with other international partners, in efforts to revitalize the political process towards the two-state solution.
In the meanwhile, it is crucial to protect all civilian lives, ensure a humanitarian pause to free the hostages, and mobilize to provide urgent humanitarian relief for the civilians in Gaza. The EU has increased its humanitarian support to a total of €100 million EUR now.
Do you believe Israel is violating international humanitarian law?
The EU's position is clear. European leaders reiterated their condemnation in the strongest possible terms of Hamas for its brutal and indiscriminate terrorist attack across Israel. [The EU has emphasized] that Israel has the right to defend itself, and it is clear that this needs to happen in line with international law and international humanitarian law, as also underlined by the United Nations Secretary-General and United States President [Joe Biden].
Civilians' lives must be protected without exception — we also call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages in Gaza.
We are gravely concerned by the deteriorating humanitarian situation on the ground, with violence spiraling also in the West Bank. We call for humanitarian corridors and pauses to ensure the safe delivery of aid, and to address the urgent needs. Protecting civilians and easing the increasingly dire situation is our priority.
On our side, we are fully mobilized, and we offer support to alleviate the suffering in Gaza. Beyond our quadrupled humanitarian assistance to Gaza, we launched a Humanitarian Air Bridge operation, as well as additional support of €10 million EUR to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
We are ready to support stabilization efforts in Gaza. And we remain committed to the two-state solution as the only viable option to achieve lasting peace.
EU in the Indo-Pacific Region
What is the EU's role in the security of the Indo-Pacific?
The Indo-Pacific region is of key strategic importance for the EU, both in geoeconomic and geopolitical terms. The Indo-Pacific and Europe account for over 70% of the global trade in goods and services and over 60% of foreign direct investment flows. Around 25% of the EU's foreign trade passes through the South China Sea.
We live in an era of strategic competition and complex security threats, including hybrid and cyber threats, which require the EU to be able to act and react quickly and decisively. Geopolitical competition is intensifying in the Indo-Pacific, creating significant strains on trade and supply chains and worsening the overall regional security landscape.
The EU's approach to the Indo-Pacific region is one of cooperation, not confrontation. Our renewed commitment to the region is inclusive of all partners wishing to cooperate with the EU. We will adapt this cooperation according to specific areas where partners share principles, values, or mutual interests. In the meantime, the EU will look after its interests, too, and this may entail additional naval diplomacy and deployments. Any decisions will be conveyed publicly, transparently, in due time.
Where can the EU and Japan cooperate on China diplomacy?
From Europe to the Indo-Pacific and globally, the EU and Japan are strong partners. [We are] united by shared values, common interests, and increasingly coordinated actions taken bilaterally, regionally, in the G7 and G20 as well as in the United Nations and multilateral fora.
The EU's strategic approach towards China means that we treat China as a partner, competitor, and systemic rival. The EU remains committed to continued engagement with China around the principles of clear-eyed engagement alongside political, diplomatic, and economic de-risking.
We also firmly believe in keeping channels of communication open and talking with China on issues of global concern. The EU and Japan should work with China to confront common challenges from climate change to pandemic preparedness to the alleviation of the debt burden for low-income countries. We see this engagement as a collective task — for the EU, Japan, and all partners — working wherever possible with China, going forward.
How can Japan and the EU counter China's assertiveness?
The EU and Japan have been working closely to align efforts to cope with what we perceive to be the growing assertiveness of China. This means we continue to pass clear and coherent messages to Beijing on Taiwan, where we believe that any unilateral change of the status quo in Taiwan is not acceptable, even more so if this would include the use of force.
Like Japan, the EU also remains seriously concerned about the security situation in the South and East China Seas. Military deployments, coercion and intimidation, land reclamation, and subsequent militarization of artificial islands, undermine the maritime security environment. They negatively impact the normal commercial flow of sea lanes of communication and the freedoms of navigation and overflight — which should be enjoyed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) by all parties. Everyone should refrain from the threat or use of force and resolve disputes through peaceful means, in accordance with international law, in particular UNCLOS.
The deterioration of the human rights situation in China also remains a shared concern, including developments related to Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong. Our actions as like-minded partners in multilateral fora are important (eg, the UN Human Rights Council), as are our respective direct bilateral messages to China.
The Ongoing War in Ukraine
How about China's role in the Russia-Ukraine war?
The EU and Japan also share concerns about China's position towards Russia, and Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine. It is important to continue to be clear with China on our expectations that China uses its influence on Russia to help stop the war. And that no weapons flow from China to Russia which end up supporting Russia's illegal invasion.
Can the EU maintain long-term military support for Ukraine?
The EU has made it clear that our support for Ukraine will continue for as long as it takes. In October, I convened the first-ever meeting of all 27 EU foreign ministers outside the EU in Kyiv, in a clear demonstration of our unwavering determination. We are committed to standing with Ukraine in its effort to defend itself and its population against Russia's illegal war of aggression.
That is why the EU and member states have been supporting Ukraine with military aid since day one. Together, we have delivered more than €25 billion EUR worth of military equipment, out of which €5.6 billion EUR came through the European Peace Facility.
EU and member states are currently working on long-term security commitments to Ukraine, including the multiannual provision of military equipment and training to Ukraine as well as defense industry cooperation. I was tasked by the European Council to consult with Ukraine on the EU's future security commitments and to report back on those discussions at the European Council meeting in December.
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