France's Macron and Jordan's King Abdullah warn against Israeli offensive in Rafah

A Palestinian state is not 'taboo' for France, says French President Emmanuel Macron

Jordan's King Abdullah, left, is received by French President Emmanuel Macron, at the Elysee Palace in Paris. AP
Powered by automated translation

Jordan's King Abdullah and French President Emmanuel Macron warned against an Israeli offensive on Rafah at a meeting in Paris on Friday.

An Israeli offensive in Rafah “could only lead to an unprecedented humanitarian disaster and would be a turning point in this conflict”, the French President warned, standing alongside the monarch, at the Elysee palace.

“Today, the human toll of this conflict is intolerable,” Mr Macron said.

“I share the fears of Jordan and Egypt of a forced and massive displacement of the population.

“It would not only be once again a grave violation of international law and [represent] a major risk for regional escalation.”

King Abdullah also warned of “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” should Israel go ahead with its planned operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where close to 1.5 million people have taken refuge.

“We must find a political solution that paves the way to peace based on the creation of two states,” said King Abdullah, who also discussed the Gaza war in London with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday.

“It is the only way to guarantee peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis in the region.”

Mr Macron echoed the king's remarks, saying “the recognition of a Palestinian state is not a taboo for France”.

The leaders also spoke about their co-operation in sending humanitarian aid to Gaza.

“We supported Jordanian field hospitals in Gaza [and] sent tonnes of humanitarian aid, including by parachuting them into Gaza,” said Mr Macron.

Yet they also acknowledged that humanitarian access to the enclave remains largely insufficient.

Close to 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's retaliatory military operation after the Hamas-led October 7 attacks on Israel, during which about 1,200 Israelis died.

Mr Macron said he had told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reopen the port of Ashdod, where Israeli authorities have blocked a shipment amounting to a month's supply of food for UNRWA.

“There must also be a direct overland route from Jordan that can become an additional humanitarian platform for Gaza, to which France is ready to contribute,” said Mr Macron.

“All crossing points must be opened, including in northern Gaza, where the situation is dramatic,” he said.

The UN has warned of risks of famine, particularly in north Gaza, where about 300,000 people remain despite heavy fighting and Israeli calls for evacuation to the south.

King Abdullah called for international donors to increase aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. A number of large donors have suspended their financial support following Israeli allegations made public in late January about 12 UNRWA employees participating in the October 7 attacks.

France has not officially suspended payments, but it has said it had no payments planned for the first half of 2024 despite doubling its aid to UNRWA last year to €60 million.

Supporting UNRWA is “vital”, said King Abdullah, who highlighted that the agency delivers essential services to Palestinians not only in Gaza but in neighbouring countries as well, including Jordan.

Mr Macron, who did not mention the agency in his statement, expressed particular concern for the month of Ramadan, which will start next month.

“A few weeks away from Ramadan, I want to underline with gravity the importance to preserve the status quo in Jerusalem's holy sites,” he said.

“Jordan plays a specific and important role that must not be called into question.”

Jordan is the custodian of occupied East Jerusalem's holy sites.

The most recent violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli at Al Aqsa Mosque took place during Ramadan last year. About 50 Palestinians were injured and hundreds arrested.

Updated: February 19, 2024, 9:59 AM