JOHANNESBURG: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa accused Israel of war crimes and "genocide" in Gaza, as he chaired an extraordinary summit of the BRICS group of nations on Tuesday.
Pretoria is hosting a virtual meeting of BRICS -- a group of major emerging economies that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- aimed at drawing up a common response to the conflict.
"The collective punishment of Palestinian civilians through the unlawful use of force by Israel is a war crime. The deliberate denial of medicine, fuel, food and water to the residents of Gaza is tantamount to genocide," Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa called for an "immediate and comprehensive ceasefire" and the deployment of a UN force "to monitor the cessation of hostilities and protect civilians."
"As individual countries, we have demonstrated our grave concern at the death and destruction in Gaza," he told the summit.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Tuesday for a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said regional states and members of the BRICS group of countries could be involved in efforts to reach such a settlement.
"We call for the joint efforts of the international community aimed at de-escalating the situation, a ceasefire and finding a political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And the BRICS states and countries of the region could play a key role in this work," Putin said.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for an "international peace conference" to resolve the conflict, as he addressed a virtual summit of fellow BRICS leaders.
"There can be no sustainable peace and security in the Middle East without a just solution to the question of Palestine," Xi said, speaking through an interpreter.
"Since the outbreak of the latest Palestinian-Israeli conflict, China has been working actively to promote peace talks and a ceasefire," he said.
As Riyadh was invited to the join the BRICS bloc earlier this year, Saudi Arabia has demanded the start of a serious and comprehensive peace process to establish a Palestinian state along the borders of 1967,
"The Kingdom's position is constant and firm; there is no way to achieve security and stability in Palestine except through the implementation of international decisions related to the two-state solution," Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman told a virtual summit of the BRICS. — Agencies