Cairo Peace Summit – Speech by the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna (Cairo, 21 October 2023)


Your Royal Highnesses,
Heads of State and Government,
Your Excellencies,

On 7 October, Israel suffered a massive terrorist attack, led by Hamas, a terrorist group which aims to destroy the State of Israel and sow hatred and chaos. Hamas does not seek to realize the aspirations of the Palestinians. Other terrorist groups have claimed responsibility for actions in support of them. The scale of the massacres and atrocities committed leaves little doubt that this was a premeditated, orchestrated, planned attack. It was an attack of severe brutality, savagery and barbarity.

France too was affected. To date, 30 of my fellow citizens have been killed and seven more remain missing or are being held hostage.

I want to urgently reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

Nothing can ever justify terrorism, not ever.
In the face of terrorism, Israel has a right to defend itself so that this never happens again.

For its response to be strong, it must be fair.
To be fair, it must adhere to international law, as we all recall, because the law applies to all of us.

Under all circumstances, our guiding political, moral and ethical principles must be met. This is an imperative for all of us.
The President of the French Republic reminded the Israeli Prime Minister of that, and will continue to do so. As will I.

Israel’s legitimate response to this terrorist attack must therefore protect civilian populations under humanitarian law, because civilians must not pay for the crimes committed by terrorist groups, which do not represent them.

On that point, we must be very clear. The terrorists of Hamas do not represent the Palestinian people or the Palestinian cause. This must be even further reiterated in the current highly volatile situation, where certain stakeholders are seeking to create confusion. The strongest possible condemnation of the actions of Hamas is the best way for the voice of the Palestinians to be heard.

France condemns the actions of Hamas, but supports the rights of the Palestinians. It has always done so, and will continue to do so, even more so today. It will also continue to reinforce the Palestinian Authority.

In the face of this humanitarian crisis inflicted upon the civilian population of Gaza, last Sunday, here in Egypt, I announced a further €10 million, to be sent via United Nations agencies (UNRWA, WFP), the ICRC and NGOs. This will enable essential goods, water, food, medicine, etc. to be provided. We are prepared to increase this assistance, and we have just done so as the President of the French Republic has just announced a further €10 million and a humanitarian relief plane.

And this assistance must be urgently sent to these populations and displaced persons. France therefore welcomes the agreement to that end and welcomes the work that went into reaching it, including that of Egypt and the United Nations.

This agreement must be urgently implemented, and long-term assistance must be provided. This morning, a first step was taken, which we all applauded, but it must be followed by further steps over the long term.

The distribution of assistance to civilian populations, starting with the most vulnerable, requires a humanitarian truce, which could lead to a ceasefire.

Finally, those wishing to leave Gaza must be allowed to do so unimpeded. I have made this request for our staff, our French nationals and their families.

This is a humanitarian emergency, but the reason we are all here today is that we know that a better response must be provided to the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations.

The Palestinians want to live with dignity. Far from the terrorist atrocities of Hamas, they want to live in peace with the Israelis, not against them, but alongside them.

We have a joint responsibility to redraw a political horizon, which can meet this aspiration.

France’s position remains the same, and we strongly reiterate it once again today: there must be security for Israel, and a State for Palestinians. These two conditions are inseparable.

The only viable solution is a two-State solution, living in peace and security alongside each other.

It is our responsibility to build consensus along these lines so as to finally end this scourge in the Middle East.

But above all, in the coming days, it is crucial we avoid escalation, which could lead to conflagration in the region. Powers of which all of us here are aware have chosen to fan the flames to try to hide their crimes, their wars, their hegemonic agenda, and to weaken countries in the region and spread chaos.

It is imperative that we stand united against them.

We must avoid their trap.

And shoulder this collective responsibility to find a way back to peace.

Thank you.