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Official speeches and statements - May 17, 2021

Published on May 17, 2021

1. United Nations - Middle East - Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the United Nations, at the Security Council (New York - May 16, 2021)

[translation from French]

Mr. President,

I welcome the participation of the Secretary-General, as well as that of several ministers, and I thank the Special Coordinator for his briefing.

France is extremely concerned about the ongoing spiral of violence in the Middle East. This is largely the result of a lack of political perspectives. There is a risk that the suffering and violence will continue if there is no will to move resolutely towards the establishment of two States living in peace and security within secure and recognized borders on the basis of the lines of June 4, 1967, both with Jerusalem as their capital, within the framework of international law and the resolutions of this Council.

France expressed its concern at a very early stage about the tensions that arose in April in the Old City of Jerusalem and in Sheikh Jarrah, and about the risks associated with the acceleration of settlement activity in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem.

Today, further escalation poses the risk of a major conflict, with serious consequences in the Palestinian Territories and in Israel, and with unpredictable regional repercussions. Everything must be done to put an end to it. The urgency is therefore to reach a cessation of hostilities, immediately, as the Secretary-General has said.

We are particularly concerned about the high number of civilian casualties on both sides, especially children. Our thoughts today are with their families and their loved ones.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the firing of rockets claimed by Hamas and other terrorist groups at Israel. They are unacceptable and must stop immediately. This indiscriminate firing, contrary to international humanitarian law, puts the Israeli population at grave risk. And I want to say once again that France will never compromise with Israel’s security.

France recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself but calls on the Israeli authorities to show the utmost restraint, in strict compliance with international law and international humanitarian law.

France is very concerned about the fate of the civilian population in Gaza, which is already suffering from the blockade. We call on all actors to guarantee access for aid and to protect humanitarian and medical personnel, as well as ambulances. We support UNICEF’s call for action to protect children and we also call for the protection of journalists and full respect for the freedom of the press.

The continuing clashes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as well as the clashes in Israel are very worrying. All provocative statements and calls for violence must stop. We call on everyone to exercise restraint. Appeasement measures in Jerusalem must continue. This includes full respect for the 1967 status quo at the Holy Places and an end to all settlement activity, including the eviction of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, including Sheikh Jarrah, which is contrary to international humanitarian law. We condemn settlement activity in all its forms.

Finally, the firings from southern Lebanon and from Syria is a particularly worrying development. We warn everyone about the regional consequences of an escalation in northern Israel. France has actively reached out to the concerned parties in recent days. It will continue to work actively for peace.

To this end, President Macron has held talks with the Israeli Prime Minister and the Palestinian President to facilitate a return to the ceasefire in Gaza and a return to calm in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. He will hold talks with President Sissi in the coming days. The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, is also having multiple contacts with his counterparts on this subject. He has been in contact with his Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian counterparts over the past few days. France intends to continue these contacts in the coming days.

Faced with the risk of a major security and humanitarian crisis, we also give our full support to the Special Coordinator and to all ongoing mediation efforts, in particular those of Egypt.

The priority is a return to the ceasefire as soon as possible. The escalation we are witnessing underlines once again the urgency of relaunching the peace process by promoting the resumption of negotiations between the parties. Only a two-state solution will meet their aspirations and ensure lasting peace and stability in the region. It is time to work towards its implementation by rebuilding trust. This is the objective of France’s efforts, with its German, Egyptian and Jordanian partners, and of the meeting organized in Paris on 11 March by the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs with his counterparts from these countries.

Mr. President,

In view of the urgency and gravity of the situation, this Council must unite to launch a unanimous appeal for a rapid cessation of hostilities. This is the only priority today. And it is our collective responsibility.

I thank you.