Statement by Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière, Permanent Representative of France to the UN: We will continue to call for the opening of humanitarian access to the Gaza strip

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18 October 2023

We are in a situation wich is continuously deteriorating in Gaza and in the region. It would have been the responsibility of the Security Council to react and to call for all civilians to be spared – I mean it, all civilians on all sides.

It is still time for the international community to speak with one voice, in unity, to condemn, without any ambiguity, Hamas terrorist attack against Israel.

This is what President Macron has been doing as soon as October 7. We condemn this terrorist attack and we support Israel on this one.

This is why France, this morning, voted in favor of the resolution put to the vote by Brazil. And I want to thank Brazil for this initiative, and its coordinating role.

We deeply regret that this text has been rejected. It contained a very clear condemnation of Hamas terrorist attack, which is very important for us. It was reiterating the role of international humanitarian law, international law which apply to everyone, the Geneva Conventions, a call on the protection of civilians which was absolutely essential. And it reiterarated as well all the parameters of peace in the Middle East. So, the Security Council missed an opportunity to reiterate the urgent obligation to allow the supply of first emergency necessities to the population of Gaza: water, food, electricity, fuel, and medicines.

So, together with its partners, France will remain committed and engaged to supporting the UN humanitarian operations in Gaza. We will continue to call for the opening of humanitarian access to the Gaza strip without delay, and for the safe and unhindered access of UN and ICRC humanitarian workers to Gaza.

Q : Ambassador, what is your reaction to the american veto ?

R : I have no reaction. I think – I am speaking for France – I think we don’t see any contradiction between supporting Israel after this tragedy. We said it on Day 1, we will continue to support Israel after what happened. It has been a terrorist attack. Hamas is a terrorist organisation and we totally recognize the right of Israel to defend itself. And on the other hand, protecting civilians, granting humanitarian access, calling for the full respect of international humanitarian law and the Geneva conventions. There is absolutely no contradiction. This is basically what this resolution was doing.

Q : How would this veto will hurt the reputation of the Security Council ?

R : Again, I’m speaking just for France, so I think, we have been very clear on day 1. I think there is no contradiction between the two dimensions I have just mentioned, maybe for other members of the Council there was a contradiction, you should ask them.

But, as far as I am concerned, I will continue to push for a cessation of hostilities, full humanitarian access, full respect of the international humanitarian law, and the Geneva Conventions, and, at least probably, once this crisis is over, resumption of a genuine and credible Middle East peace process : there has not been once since 2014.

Q : Ambassador, You are calling on cessation of hostilities for humanitarian reasons. The question is, more than 4000 Palestinians, most of them are civilians who were killed until now in the Israeli attacks, why aren’t you calling on a ceasefire and stopping all this violence, because people in Gaza look at you, I mean France, and European and Western countries, and for them, you don’t care about their lives. So, how can you explain that ?

R : This is a tragedy, we are witnessing a tragedy. It is not the first one, but it is probably the worst one in decades. To a certain extent and to a large extent, I think the civilian population of Gaza is a victim of Hamas, of course. And I think Hamas launched a terrorist attack on Israel, and I think the Hamas strategy is to create this mess and this tragedy. I think Hamas is working against its own people, this is the reality.

Now, we are confronted with this situation. We need to urge all parties to respect international humanitarian law, to protect the civilians – I will not say to protect the terrorist fighters, I don’t think this should be the case – but to protect an immense majority of civilians who are still in Gaza. This is our priority and this is what France is working for. There are many efforts going on by the UN Secretary General, by the United States, by Egypt and others, to alleviate the suffering in Gaza right now. And I think we will continue to do our best to do that.

Q : Quelle est la position de la France sur ce veto américain et est-ce que c’est une opportunité manquée du Conseil ?

R : C’est une opportunité manquée par le Conseil. La France a voté en faveur de cette résolution, bien entendu, pour les raisons que j’ai indiquées. Cette résolution condamnait très clairement l’attaque terroriste du Hamas, premièrement. Deuxièmement, cette résolution appelait à l’accès humanitaire et au respect intégral des Conventions de Genève, c’est important. Elle rappelait aussi le cap politique d’un règlement au Proche-Orient. Elle appelait à la libération inconditionnelle des otages. Donc c’était une bonne résolution ; c’est pour cela que la France l’a soutenue, nous étions douze à la soutenir, plus deux abstentions. Donc je regrette que cette résolution n’ait pas été adoptée mais la France, pour sa part, va continuer à travailler au Conseil de sécurité, et dans toutes les instances, pour essayer de venir en aide aux populations civiles puisque c’est ça la priorité. Puis deuxièmement, trouver une solution politique à cette crise qui n’a que trop duré.

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