Statements – The Situation in the Middle East – Introductory remarks
I would like to open the statements segment of this press briefing by saying that our thoughts are with our fellow citizens who have been held hostage by Hamas for a month now.
As we speak, eight French nationals are still reported missing, including several individuals we have confirmed are being held hostage by Hamas. Among them are very likely a number of minors.
As President Macron and Minister Colonna reiterated, France is mobilizing all its efforts to secure their immediate, unconditional release. We are working on this by discussing it with our partners, especially in Israel and Qatar. This past weekend, the Minister traveled to the Gulf again, where she was able to discuss these matters.
Our teams are in close touch with the families of the hostages and those reported missing. Our senior authorities have had several opportunities to communicate our support and active efforts to them.
As regards the general situation in the Middle East, I would like to remind you, as I indicated previously, that Minister Colonna was in Doha and Abu Dhabi in the Gulf just a few days ago, where she spoke with her counterparts about this situation. From day one, France has taken an active three-pronged approach involving our senior authorities, President and Minister. When President Macron presented the peace and security initiative on his tour of the region, he reiterated this approach’s three humanitarian, security and political dimensions.
As the Minister stated again in Doha this past weekend, first and foremost, this is a humanitarian emergency. She shared the same remark again this morning in Tokyo. Let me remind you of the main thrust of her statements: she – and we – call for an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce, as requested in the Jordanian resolution, which was presented and adopted by the UN General Assembly, with France’s support. As Catherine Colonna recalled this weekend, this truce must allow for a ceasefire.
We are calling for humanitarian access that is sufficient, durable and unhindered in order to meet the massive needs of Gaza’s civilian population. As Catherine Colonna stated again in Tokyo, the aid currently being provided is far from meeting the massive needs of the civilian population of Gaza.
Lastly, the fight against terrorism must be carried out in compliance with international humanitarian law. Minister Colonna insisted on this international obligation and on the moral duty to protect civilians. Palestinians should not be made to pay for Hamas’s crimes. This obligation must be respected.
All of these points will be addressed at the first Humanitarian Conference for Gaza’s Civilian Population, which President Macron has taken the initiative of convening tomorrow, November 9. This conference will provide the opportunity to discuss three main goals: respect for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians and humanitarian personnel; a sufficient, durable humanitarian response, especially with regards to the need for water, healthcare services, electricity and food; and lastly, a call for concrete efforts to meet an estimated $1.2 billion in needs, according to the UN.
The second focus of our efforts is security. President Macron stressed this and so did Minister Colonna. We have vigorously condemned Hamas’s terrorist attacks and reiterated the need to combat terrorism. Israel has the right to defend itself, but it has the duty to do so in compliance with international humanitarian law.
Our authorities have said as much many, many times. In addition, we are working to avoid a regional conflagration. These messages have been conveyed to Lebanon. The Minister was the first official to travel to Lebanon to share these messages. The Minister for the Armed Forces also reiterated these messages this past weekend. As you will recall, the President of France likewise spoke about this with President Raisi of Iran. We are continuing our ongoing discussions with our partners on these issues, both in the region and beyond.
Our other priority is avoiding a conflagration in the West Bank. France has condemned in the strongest possible terms the growing number of acts of abuse and violence committed by settlers. Israel must put an end to this violence and punish those responsible as harshly as such unacceptable acts warrant.
The G7 also addressed this issue in its statement on the matter.
The third focus of our efforts is political. As our authorities have emphasized on all of their trips to the region and in all of their recent statements, there is an urgent need to revive the political prospect of a two-state solution in order to fulfil Israel’s aspirations for security, but this cannot be separated from the Palestinians’ aspirations for an independent state. As President Macron has stated, we want to give these efforts a decisive boost. Therefore, we are continuing our efforts on these issues.
Lastly, I would like to say once again that it is a priority for us to get French nationals, government workers and their families out of the Gaza Strip. I am happy to report that over 100 of them have been able to leave the Gazi Strip and were welcomed by our Embassy and Consulate General in Cairo. On behalf of Minister Colonna, once again, I would like to thank all our diplomatic personnel for their ongoing efforts to secure safe passage for all those French nationals and government workers who wish to leave.
Multilateralism – Catherine Colonna and Chrysoula Zacharopoulou to participate in the sixth Paris Peace Forum (November 9-10, 2023)
On the occasion of the sixth Paris Peace Forum, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna and Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy, Finance, and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty, will co-chair a ministerial meeting on November 10 about the Paris Pact for People and the Planet (4P), which President Macron launched in June to promote an injection of public and private funds to help combat poverty, climate change and biodiversity loss. This meeting will review progress made since the June Summit for a New Global Financing Pact and prospects for upcoming meetings, particularly the COP28 Climate Change Conference.
In connection with the implementation of the Paris Pact for People and the Planet, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, Minister of State for Development, Francophonie and International Partnerships, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, will take part in a panel moderated by Laurence Tubiana, chief executive officer of the European Climate Foundation, on innovative climate financing, with a view to moving the discussion forward and prompting international action on an initiative related to this topic during the COP28.
The Minister will also open the third Summit for Information and Democracy with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Maria Ressa and Christophe Deloire, Chairman of the Information and Democracy Forum. This event, which brings together stakeholders from the currently 51-member International Partnership for Information and Democracy, launched in 2019, will help illustrate the Partnership’s momentum. Information integrity on digital platforms is absolutely vital and will be the focus of their discussions. The minister will reaffirm France’s commitment to the freedom of opinion and expression, and access to reliable, independent information.
At the invitation of the International Fund for Public Interest Media (IFPIM), to which France has provided €13 million over a three-year period, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou will take part in a panel discussion on information integrity, during which she will emphasize France’s efforts in line with the 2023-2027 Media and Development roadmap. Ahead of the COP28, which will include a day devoted to health and the climate, the Minister of State will also take part in a round table on the connection between the fight against climate change and global health efforts.
Iran – Sentencing of Louis Arnaud (November 8, 2023)
We were deeply concerned to learn that Louis Arnaud was sentenced to five years in prison. This sentence, which cannot be justified and which was pronounced without giving Mr. Arnaud access to a lawyer, is unacceptable.
Louis Arnaud was arrested on September 28, 2022, while in Iran as a tourist. He has been held at Tehran’s Evin Prison for more than a year. We call for his immediate release, and for the release of all French nationals who are being arbitrarily detained in Iran.
Georgia – France condemns the murder of a Georgian citizen by Russian forces near the village of Kirbali (November 8, 2023)
France strongly condemns the murder of a Georgian citizen by Russian forces near the village of Kirbali. It offers its condolences to the victim’s family and calls for the immediate release of the Georgian citizen held by Russian forces.
France reaffirms its commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. It emphasizes that the unilateral recognition of the self-proclaimed authorities of the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the militarization of those regions, as well as obstacles placed in the way of their relations with the rest of Georgia, are unacceptable violations of international law.