Statement by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to the French Senate (12 May 2021)


I am deeply concerned by the situation in the Middle East which, as everyone knows, stems from the lack of political prospects in a situation that has gone on for too long, and that can only continue to produce suffering and violence if there is no will to advance resolutely towards the establishment of two States living side by side in peace and security, with Jerusalem as capital.

For several days – and still at the moment, especially last night, but it’s continuing – the clashes have intensified and have already taken a very heavy toll on Palestinian and Israeli civilians. This current cycle of violence in Gaza, in Jerusalem, but also in the West Bank and several other cities in Israel, could lead to a major escalation. In less than 15 years, the Gaza Strip has been the victim of three deadly conflicts. Everything must be done to avoid a fourth one. It is therefore absolutely essential that all actors – without exception – show the highest restraint and refrain from all provocation and incitement to hatred, in order to end the violence, the first victims of which are Palestinian and Israeli civilians. The only priority at this time, for these people and the whole region, should be the easing of tensions. I will be meeting my Israeli and Palestinian counterparts very shortly, in order to share all of these messages with them and to contribute to de-escalation. I will also speak to my Egyptian counterpart in a few hours’ time, in order to coordinate our action with the efforts of Egypt, to which I pay tribute and which is working right now on a resumption of the ceasefire in Gaza.

I’d also like to say to you that France condemns in the strongest terms the rocket and missile fire that has intensified from the Gaza Strip, aimed at Jerusalem and several inhabited areas of Israeli territory, including Tel Aviv, and that could cause another series of clashes. These strikes, carried out in violation of international law and for which responsibility has been claimed by Hamas, are unacceptable.

But we are also extremely worried about the situation in Jerusalem. Strictly preserving the historic status quo on the Temple Mount is imperative. I raised this issue with my Jordanian counterpart, given Jordan’s specific recognized role regarding the Holy Places of Jerusalem.

I also recall our total condemnation of settlement-building, which is contrary to international law: the threats of forced eviction targeting Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem near the Old City, particularly in Sheikh Jarrah, are part of settlement-building and fuel tensions. Lastly, the right to peacefully demonstrate must be safeguarded.

I’d like to say to you, ladies and gentlemen senators, that the French President and I are obviously doing our utmost, particularly with our colleagues from Europe – Germany in particular – Egypt and Jordan, to help de-escalate tensions. We all four [countries] have a single goal: the resumption of dialogue between the parties with a view to a fair and lasting resolution of the conflict, in compliance with international law, Security Council resolutions and internationally agreed parameters. (…)