DUBAI: Dubai prepared to host the COP28 climate talks on Tuesday as world leaders including US President Joe Biden signalled they would not be attending the negotiations that come during the ongoing Israel-Hamas war roiling the wider Middle East.

The two-week meeting of international leaders aims to assess where the world stands when it comes to limiting emissions to slow global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) compared with pre-industrial times. Emirati officials said on Tuesday they expect over 70,000 attendees at the talks, including heads of state.

Britain’s King Charles and Pope Francis will be among the leaders to attend the talks, even as the 86-year-old Francis battles a lung inflammation. However, some have said or otherwise signalled they won’t be attending the Conference of the Parties – where COP gets its name.

They include the 81-year-old Biden, who attended both COP26 in Scotland and COP27 in Egypt.

“The president has been very much focused on the conflict between Israel and Hamas over the last month or so,” said John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, on Monday. “He was working the phones over the course of Thanksgiving weekend. And I suspect that he’ll continue to work the phones in coming days.”

The White House has said it is sending a climate team, including Special Envoy John Kerry, climate adviser Ali Zaidi and clean energy adviser John Podesta.

It remains unclear if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will attend the talks.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad won’t be attending either, according to the pro-government newspaper Al-Watan, despite receiving an invitation from Emirati leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

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