PARIS (EJP) --- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned “all acts of hatred and religious intolerance” in a press conference following his meeting with French President Francois Hollande this week in Paris, as he professed himself “profoundly saddened” by the recent surge in anti-Semitic incidents in France.
Commending the president’s administration’s “categoric rejection of all (forms of) anti-Semitism”, he added that “at the hour when the world faces real problems, we must all turn our backs on discord and unite in a common cause”.
Hollande met with Jewish community leaders Sunday, the day after police carried out raids across the country in response to the firebombing of a kosher grocery store in the identifiably Jewish Parisian suburb of Sarcelles last month. The raids led to the arrest of 11 French-born members of a Jihadi terrorist cell.
Pledging the French leadership’s commitment to fight against anti-Semitism “with the greatest firmness”, Hollande insisted that “in the coming days, in the coming hours”, the authorities would be increasing security at Jewish community and religious sites to prevent similar incidents to the attack on a synagogue in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil on Saturday night from recurring.
Despite reassurance from the French political hierarchy, the Jewish community remained on high alert, with the head of the SNPM union Frederic Foncel accusing the state of trying to mislead Jewish groups by deploying municipal police to protect prone sites instead of the better-equipped national police forces. Municipal police were “under-armed and not trained” for the job of defending the community from anti-Semitic threats, he insisted.
In his meeting with the French leader, Ban also made fleeting reference to the continuing impasse in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), revealing he has shared “all his concern regarding the stalled peace process) to Hollande, as he heralded France’s initiative in committing additional aid (to the tune of €10 million) to the PA to support it in its current financial crisis, and called on “others to follow this example”.
“A Two State solution is the only option that can lead to a lasting peace,” he insisted.
Emphasising the “support” France offers to the UN on the global stage, he praised the Republic for not shying away from difficult action, adding that “In UN-led action, France is in the front-line”.
Later Tuesday, at a meeting of the UNESCO Executive Board in Paris, Ban continued on his theme of uniting in a common global cause, telling assembled delegates that the UN system as a whole must aim to “respond more effectively and more rapidly to the aspirations of the world’s people”.
Referencing his own experiences of growing up in post-war Korea, where he was instilled with “a great appreciation for the support from people half a world away”, he concluded that “I decided that once peace came to my country, I would repay that gesture with solidarity of my own – and help others facing a similar plight”.