Israeli president, Palestinian PM to attend Munich Security Conference

Munich Security Conference
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By Sarah Marsh and Andreas Rinke

BERLIN (Reuters) - Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh are among hundreds of high-ranking officials due to attend the Munich Security Conference this week, its chair Christoph Heusgen said on Monday.

The conference takes place as the war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, in which more than 28,000 Palestinians and about 1,430 Israelis have been killed, enters its fifth month with no end in sight.

Shtayyeh is part of the Palestinian Authority based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. It was not known if he and Herzog would meet.

Heusgen said the Israel-Hamas war, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and conflicts in the Horn of Africa will dominate the conference, which takes place in the southern German city of Munich from this Friday through to Sunday and is attended by the world's defence and security elite.

The future of NATO and European defence will also be a big topic, Heusgen said.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump has prompted indignation in NATO and Europe with his suggestion that the United States might not protect NATO allies who are not spending enough on defence from a potential Russian invasion.

"We obviously don't just want to paint a dark picture, but rather we will be seeking for the silver lining on the horizon," Heusgen told a news conference.

Freed Israeli hostages and relatives of hostages of Hamas would also participate in an event on the conference sidelines, Heusgen said,

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will open the conference. Other attendees include U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, China's top diplomat Wang Yi, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen and the government chiefs of Lebanon, Qatar and Iraq, he added.

The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) richest democracies will hold a meeting on the sidelines.

The MSC's annual report underscored a high degree of pessimism in Western nations about their prospects for security and prosperity, said Tobias Bunde, its head of policy and analysis.

Nearly half of German citizens for example believe their country will be less secure and less wealthy in 10 years time.

"That is a big contrast to countries like China and India where majorities are significantly more optimistic," Bunde said.

"In many western societies, the feeling that the wins of globalization are unfairly distributed and that the current world order cannot fulfill their expectations is spreading."

This in turn is dampening the desire for international cooperation, for example on issues like climate change, he said.

Some 27% of the 250 people speaking at the 60 events come from the Global South, the highest share to date at the conference.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Angus MacSwan)