Statement by Stéphane Séjourné, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of France and President of the Security Council for the month of January, to the Security Council ministerial meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question

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January 23, 2024

Mr. Secretary-General,



Ladies and Gentlemen, all protocol observed,

I took the initiative to organize this ministerial level Security Council debate under our presidency.

I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his strong statement, and I would like, in my national capacity, to refer to the tragic situation in Gaza, and to the risk of a regional conflagration, because this risk is real.

In light of what is being played out between Israelis and Palestinians, there are two possible options for this Council.

On the one hand, there are those who choose division, argument and one-upmanship. The choice of fanning the flames. The choice of those who invade their neighbor, violate its sovereignty, in Ukraine as well as in the Middle East, and seek division rather than unity here.

I, for my part, will make a different choice, by saying two things: we can, we must, stand alongside both Israelis and Palestinians. We can, we must, say difficult things to both sides.

France is acting for the good of both people, for peace. France is a friend of Israel, just as it is a friend of the Palestinian people.

Hence, I must say to Israel, which knows the friendship of the French people, that there must be a Palestinian state, that violence towards the Palestinian people, particularly that committed by extremist settlers, must end, and that international law applies to everyone.

I would like to say to the Palestinian representatives, who understand France’s historic commitment to a Palestinian state, that we will continue to fight against terrorism firmly and with determination, and that there can be no ambiguity regarding Israel’s right to live in peace and security, and to exercise its right to self-defense against terrorism.

As a friend, France says to both sides that the path ahead will be difficult for all.

Three principles will guide France’s action within this Council in the coming days and weeks. I will spell them out here.

Firstly, the principle of humanity.

All hostages must be immediately and unconditionally released. This is an urgent need. We have constantly called for it. This Council, too, has clearly called for it.

On the basis of this principle of humanity, we must, unequivocally and without further delay, condemn the terrorist attacks of the 7th of October: massive, barbaric, heinous attacks, committed by terrorists. Our Council must also open its eyes to the sexual violence used by these terrorists as a weapon of war.

In the name of this principle of humanity, we must act in favor of the civilian population of Gaza and work to bring about a ceasefire.

The suffering experienced by the civilian population of Gaza is appalling. France is one of those within this Council that is acting. The President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, took the initiative to hold an international humanitarian conference. One billion euros in humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza was announced there. Once again I appeal today to all our international partners: we must remain mobilized.

France is now one of the main supporters of Gaza’s civilians, in particular because we have massively stepped up the French contribution to UNRWA. Of the 100 million in humanitarian aid that France announced for Gaza in November, more than half of it will be channeled through UNRWA, Mr. Secretary-General. In 2024, we will further support the Palestinians with an additional 100 million euros.

We are also taking tangible steps in the region: 1,000 tons of cargo transiting through Egypt, with 1,000 medical interventions carried out in full cooperation with Egypt on the vessel Dixmude, and humanitarian cargo parachuted into Gaza with the assistance of Jordan in particular.

The Council, in its two humanitarian resolutions, set out some requirements. They must be respected.

We hear the suffering of the women, men and children of Gaza. We hear the powerlessness of humanitarian workers. Civilians, civilian infrastructures, hospitals and schools must be protected.

Humanitarian workers from the UN, the ICRC and other organizations on the ground must also be protected. I would like to pay tribute to their courage, their commitment and their devotion. I would like to tell them that France will continue to support them, tirelessly and we will not give up. I also would like to say to that they must be able to use all the necessary crossing points and deliver vital supplies up to the north of the Gaza Strip, beyond Wadi Gaza. We must work immediately for a lasting ceasefire, which alone will bring an end to this suffering.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The second principle that will guide France’s action is justice.

This war and this atrocious suffering oblige us and oblige this Council. It is our duty to do our utmost to seek a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

To do this, we must relaunch the peace process. And we must do so in a decisive and credible manner. We understand the parameters of the solution: two states living side by side in peace and security, within safe and recognized borders along the 1967 lines, with each having Jerusalem as its capital. This is the framework set by international law. It is also France’s constant position. And it’s also why it’s not for Israel, nor for anyone else, to decide for Palestinians how they will be governed tomorrow, nor the scope of their sovereignty.

Within the framework of this two-state resolution, we must also, starting now, think about the future of Gaza. As I was saying, it is not up to Israel to decide the fate of the Palestinian population of Gaza. Gaza is Palestinian land. And it falls to the Palestinian Authority, that we support, to be able to exercise its full authority there.

In order to ensure that this becomes a reality, the United Nations has, and will have, an important role to play. In this regard, Mr. Secretary-General, I would also like to congratulate Sigrid Kaag for her appointment as coordinator for humanitarian action and reconstruction in Gaza.

The full international community must be mobilized to rebuild Gaza.

The situation in the West Bank requires our full attention. The violence perpetrated by violent settlers against the Palestinian civilian population is today unacceptable. Once again, we condemn these violence in the strongest possible terms. They must immediately cease.

Together with its partners, France will at the right time take the necessary initiatives to ensure that the Council is seized of all the political issues.

Finally, the third principle of our action will be the principle of responsibility in the light of risk of further escalation.

We must do our utmost to avoid a regional conflagration and an expansion of the conflict. Some may be tempted to use groups affiliated to them to add to the chaos and to undermine the stability of the region. We have a warning for them.

We are particularly concerned by the heightened tensions around the Blue Line. We call on the parties to exercise strict restraint and to do their utmost to bring the escalation to a definitive end. UNIFIL must be allowed to exercise its mandate in good conditions.

We are also concerned by the attacks committed by the Houthis in the Red Sea. These are extremely serious violations of international law and trade. France will continue to shoulder its responsibilities. In the same veine, we condemn the violations of Iraq’s sovereignty.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

France will continue to work and take the initiative to ensure that our Council addresses all facets of the crisis, so that it finally condemns the barbaric attacks of October 7, and so that international humanitarian law is respected and responds to the needs of the civilian populations of Gaza. To finally and decisively advance the two-state solution, you can count on our commitment.

Thank you.

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