France and US working to prevent wider Middle East escalation

Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron welcome the hostage rescue operation carried out by the Israeli military

French President Emmanuel Macron with US President Joe Biden at the state dinner in Paris. Reuters
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France and the US will work harder to prevent a broader escalation in the Middle East with a key priority to calm the situation between Israel and Hezbollah, President Emmanuel Macron said.

France held a state visit for US President Joe Biden on Saturday where Gaza, the war in Ukraine and international trade topped the political agenda.

“We are redoubling efforts together to avoid a regional explosion, particularly in Lebanon,” Mr Macron said in a joint statement with Mr Biden.

Mr Macron said they were working on “advancing parameters” to reduce tensions and end an institutional vacuum in Lebanon.

The state visit in Paris came on the same day that four Israeli hostages were freed in the enclave and, according to Gazan government sources, at least 210 Palestinians were killed.

Both men welcomed the hostage rescue operation carried out by the Israeli military.

“We won't stop working until all the hostages come home and a ceasefire is reached,” Mr Biden said.

The Israeli military said the hostages – Noa Argamani, 25, Almog Meir Jan, 21, Andrey Kozlov, 27 and Shlomi Ziv, 40 – were freed in an operation in Nuseirat city.

The Hamas government media office said at least 210 Palestinians, including children, were killed in Nuseirat on the same day.

Mr Biden's state visit began with a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, where both leaders paid their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Accompanied by their wives, they greeted army veterans. Then, escorted by French guards on horseback, they drove down the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, en route to the Elysee Palace.

The day concluded with dinner at the French presidential palace, where celebrities including Pharrell Williams and John McEnroe joined political and business leaders.

Mr Biden and Mr Macron share a warm relationship despite past tensions, including over a submarine deal with Australia.

They are aligned in their countries' support for Ukraine and opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s about much more than Ukraine. All of Europe will be threatened, but we’re not going to let that happen,” Mr Biden said. “The United States is standing strong with Ukraine. We’re standing with our allies. And we’re standing with France.”

Beyond Ukraine, trade issues loomed large, especially the US’s Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law in August 2022. European officials see it as a protectionist move that siphons off investments from EU companies.

They also agreed on the need to better co-operate to counter China’s economic practices, a topic that has sometimes caused friction between the two leaders.

In Washington, thousands of Gaza war protesters held a “red line” rally near the White House on Saturday, angry at what they say is Mr Biden's tolerance of Israel's military campaign.

Chanting “From DC to Palestine, we are the red line”, the demonstrators held a long banner with the names of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.

“I no longer believe any of the words that Joe Biden says. This 'red line' in his rhetoric is rubbish … it shows his hypocrisy and his cowardice,” said Zaid Mahdawi, a protester from Virginia whose parents are Palestinian.

Last month, Washington said an Israeli strike on Rafah did not cross a “red line” that Mr Biden had seemingly set two months earlier.

Updated: June 09, 2024, 10:39 AM