United Nations – Speech by Mr Stéphane Séjourné, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs at the United Nations Security Council (New York, 23 January 2024)


Ladies and gentlemen,

I have taken the initiative of holding this Security Council debate at Ministerial level, under our Presidency.

I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his powerful address and, in a national capacity, also touch upon the tragic situation in Gaza and the very real risk of regional extension.

In the face of what is playing out between the Israelis and the Palestinians, this Council can take two possible paths.

On the one hand, there are those who choose division, controversy and escalation. Those who choose to blow on the embers. Those who choose to invade their neighbours, trample their sovereignty, in Ukraine or the Middle East, and who here seek division rather than unity.

For my part, I will make another choice, and I have two things to say: we can and must stand with both the Israelis and the Palestinians. We can and must say difficult things to both of them.

France acts to serve the interests of peoples, in the name of peace. It is a friend of Israel, and a friend of the Palestinian people.

So I must tell Israel, which knows the friendship of the French people, that a Palestinian State is needed, that violence against the Palestinian people, including by extremist settlers, must stop, and that international law applies to everyone.

And I must tell the Palestinian representatives, who know France’s historic commitment to bringing about a Palestinian State, that we will continue to fight terrorism, firmly and doggedly, and that there cannot be ambiguity on Israel’s right to live in peace and security and its right to exercise self-defence in the face of terrorism.

It is as a friend that France tells both parties that the path forward will be difficult for everyone.

Three principles will guide France’s action within this Council in the coming days and weeks, and I want to set them out now.

Firstly, the principle of humanity.

All hostages must be released, immediately and unconditionally. That is an absolute need. We have not wavered in demanding it. This Council has also demanded it most clearly.

In the name of this principle of humanity, we must condemn, unequivocally and without further delay, the terrorist attacks of 7 October: massive, barbaric, abominable attacks committed by terrorists. Our Council must also open its eyes when it comes to the sexual violence that these terrorists have used as a weapon of war.

In the name of this principle of humanity, again, we must act to support the civilian population in Gaza and work towards a ceasefire.

The suffering they face is terrible. France is of those, within this Council, who are taking action. The President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, took the initiative of holding an International Humanitarian Conference, where a billion euros in humanitarian assistance was announced for Gaza’s civilians. Once again, I appeal to all international partners to remain mobilized.

France is today one of the main supporters of civilians in Gaza, in part because we have massively increased the French contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. More than half of the €100 million in humanitarian assistance that France announced for Gaza in November will, Secretary-General, be delivered through the Agency. In 2024, we will support the Palestinians further, through an additional €100 million.

We also carry out tangible action in the region, with 1,000 tons of freight delivered through Egypt, 1,000 medical interventions, in full cooperation with Egypt, on the Dixmude, and humanitarian freight parachuted into Gaza with Jordan’s assistance, for example.

This Council has set down requirements in its two humanitarian resolutions. They must be respected.

We must hear the suffering of the women, men and children of Gaza. We must hear the sentiment of powerlessness among humanitarian actors. Civilians, civilian infrastructure, hospitals and schools must be protected.

Humanitarian workers in the field, from the UN, the ICRC and other organizations, must also be protected. I want to commend their courage, their commitment and their devotion. I want to tell them that France will continue to support them, tirelessly and unwaveringly. I want to tell them that they must be able to cross all the necessary crossing points and deliver vital cargo, including to the north of the Gaza Strip, beyond the Wadi Gaza. We must work immediately to achieve a lasting ceasefire, the only means to end this suffering.

Ladies and gentlemen,
France’s second guiding principle is justice.

This war and this horrific suffering means we have a duty, and this Council has a duty. It is our duty to do our utmost to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

To do so, the peace process must be revived. And this revival must be decisive and credible. We know the parameters for the solution: two States living side by side in peace and security, within secure borders, recognized on the basis of the 1967 lines, with both having Jerusalem as capital. That is the framework which has been set by international law. That has also consistently been France’s position. And that is why neither Israel nor any other country can decide how the Palestinians will be governed in the future, nor on the scope of their sovereignty.

With this two-state solution in mind, we must now also start thinking about the future of Gaza. As I said, it is not for Israel to decide on the fate of the Palestinian populations in Gaza. Gaza is Palestinian territory. And it is up to the Palestinian Authority, which we support, to exercise its full authority over Gaza.

For this to become a reality, the United Nations has and will have an important role to play. In this regard, Secretary-General, I would also like to congratulate Sigrid Kaag on her appointment as Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza.

The entire international community must take action to rebuild Gaza.
We must take urgent action with regard to the situation in the West Bank. The violence inflicted by violent settlers upon the Palestinian civilian population is unacceptable. Once again, we condemn it in the strongest terms. It must end immediately.

With its partners, France will, in due course, take initiatives so that the Council can examine all these political issues.

Finally, the third principle of our action will be the principle of responsibility in face of the risks of escalation.

We must do everything possible to avoid regional conflagration and prevent the spread of the conflict. Some are tempted to use their vassal groups to add to the chaos and undermine regional stability. We are issuing them with a warning.

We are hugely concerned about the increasing tensions around the Blue Line. We call on the parties to exercise the utmost restraint and to strive to permanently end this escalation. UNIFIL must be allowed to exercise its mandate under proper conditions.

We are also concerned about the attacks perpetrated by the Houthis in the Red Sea. These are extremely serious attacks on the law and on global trade. France will continue to shoulder its responsibilities. We equally condemn the violations of Iraqi sovereignty.

Ladies and gentlemen,
France will continue to work and put forward initiatives so that our Council can express its views on every aspect of the crisis, so that it can at last condemn the barbaric attacks of 7 October, so that international humanitarian law is adhered to and meets the needs of the civilian populations in Gaza. And finally, you can count on our commitment to making decisive progress on the two-state solution.

Thank you.