The foreign ministers of Japan and Iran on Wednesday agreed to maintain communication over the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, with both sides hopeful the war between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas can be de-escalated.

During their meeting in Geneva, Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa also asked her Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian to urge the Yemen-based, Iran-backed Houthi rebels not to hinder the free and safe navigation of vessels, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

They met on the fringes of the Global Refugee Forum, an international conference to discuss support for refugees and the countries accepting them, being held in the Swiss city for three days through Friday.

The talks came as Israel's military operations in response to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas show no signs of letting up, with the death toll in Gaza now topping 18,000, according to Palestinian authorities.

Iran, a supporter of Hamas, and Israel have for decades been openly hostile toward each other. The Houthi rebels have been criticized for recent seizures of commercial ships in regional waters, including one in the Red Sea last month involving a cargo ship operated by a Japanese firm.

Earlier Wednesday, Kamikawa also had separate meetings with her counterparts from France, Jordan and Lebanon, and pledged to boost the respective bilateral relationships, according to the ministry.