Withdrawals and absences from the climate conference due to the impact of the war in Gaza

The Iranian delegation withdrew from the UN climate conference “COP28” in Dubai on Friday, and the Israeli president canceled his speech, as the resumption of war in Gaza overshadowed discussions on climate change.

As Israel resumed devastating bombings after a week-long truce, many world leaders who spoke to discuss climate change took the opportunity to express their regret over the war between Israel and Hamas that has left thousands dead.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in his speech: “It is impossible not to address the humanitarian crisis that our neighboring Palestinian territories are witnessing… as a result of Israeli aggression,” which “cannot be justified under any circumstances.”

He considered it a “humanitarian crime and a war crime”.

In turn, the presidents of Colombia and Cuba have described this war as a “genocide.”

The war erupted after an attack by Hamas on October 7, which killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in Israel and took around 240 hostages, according to Israeli authorities.

In response, Israel vowed to “eliminate” Hamas and launched a devastating air and ground military campaign on the Gaza Strip, which the Hamas government says resulted in the killing of more than 15,000 people, most of whom were also civilians .

With the resumption of hostilities in the Gaza Strip and the announcement of the killing of at least 178 people in the Strip on Friday, according to Hamas, dozens of world leaders gave speeches before the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, but the Israeli president, Isaac Herzog did not deliver his speech, a day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas canceled his participation in the conference.

The Emir of Qatar was absent from the final list of speakers after his name was placed on it.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, was not present, although he was expected to be the first to speak.

No reason was given Friday for these last-minute changes.

“Enormous suffering”

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres spoke at the World Summit on Climate Action, on the sidelines of the Conference of the Parties, as news began to circulate about the resumption of Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip.

“As we see in this region, conflicts cause enormous suffering and inflame emotions,” he said, “We have just heard reports of new bombs in Gaza.”

The Iranian delegation suddenly withdrew from the conference to protest the Israeli presence, which the head of the delegation, Energy Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian, called “contrary to the objectives and directions of the conference,” according to the news agency IRNA official.

Iranian official media reported on Thursday that President Ebrahim Raisi would not attend the conference and that Mehrabian would act in his place.

Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid used his speech to condemn the “aggressive attack on Gaza”, calling on the international community to “stand firm” with him.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said his country was “shocked by the ongoing tragedy in Gaza and the war against innocent people… Palestine is a war crime that must be stopped.”

The Jordanian king, King Abdullah II, one of the first speakers, touched on the issue of Gaza, underlining that “it is not possible to talk about climate change in isolation from the human tragedies we see around us, pointing to the direct threat that Palestinians face with their lives”, as reported by the Jordanian news agency “Petra”.

King Abdullah stressed “the need to address climate challenges by including the most vulnerable groups, pointing to Palestinians who have been greatly affected by the war in Gaza, communities suffering from crisis and poverty around the world, and refugee families and host communities in our region and the world.”

Other leaders have also criticized the war in Gaza, but Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has not addressed it.

The conference host, the United Arab Emirates, was one of the Arab countries that signed normalization agreements with Israel in 2020.

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