French FM rejects ‘forced displacement’ of Gazans to Egypt

Cairo: France’s top diplomat Stephane Sejourne said this week that he rejects the “forced displacement” of Palestinians into Egypt from the Gaza Strip, where Israeli bombardment has pushed hundreds of thousands against the border.

At the start of his first Middle East tour as foreign minister, Sejourne addressed his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in a joint press conference, acknowledging Cairo’s concern “over forced displacement into your territory”.

“We perfectly understand these concerns, and on this point, France’s position remains the same: we condemn and will reject any action taken in this direction,” he continued.

As Qatari and Egyptian mediators press to seal a truce deal between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, Paris seeks to ensure “a ceasefire but also to prepare for the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza” Sejourne said.

Since 2007, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have led rival governments, with the latter ruling parts of the occupied West Bank under president Mahmud Abbas.

Egypt has since October warned against a “forced transfer” of Gazans into its Sinai Peninsula, and kept its border effectively closed as more than half of Gaza’s population has sought safety in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, according to the United Nations.

Israel has trained its eyes on the border town as its next target in its campaign seeking to eliminate Hamas militants, who on October 7 launched an unprecedented attack that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to a tally based on official figures.

In response, Israel launched a massive military offensive that has killed at least 27,365 people, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Sejourne said he told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday of France’s desire “for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and restarting talks for a… two-state solution”, according to a post on social media.

Asked about France’s plans to recognise a Palestinian state, the minister said the step would mark “the finalisation of a political process.”

That process, he said, “must lead to this, that’s the logic.”

“The whole question is when, at what moment and under what conditions,” he continued, adding that Gaza would be “attached to the future Palestinian state”.