France on Tuesday described an Israeli minister's remarks denying the existence of the Palestinian people as "irresponsible."
"We call on persons who have been called to high office within the Israeli government to show the required dignity, to respect that of others and to refrain from all action or declaration that could contribute to the escalation of tensions," the French foreign ministry said.
Israel's far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich made the comments on Sunday in Paris, on a trip during which he met no French government officials.
"There are no Palestinians because there isn't a Palestinian people," Smotrich said then, quoting French-Israeli Zionist activist Jacques Kupfer at an event held in his memory. This was caught on video and circulated on social media.
Evoking biblical "prophecies" that he claimed are "beginning to come true," the Israeli minister said "After 2,000 years... God is gathering his people. The people of Israel are returning home."
"There are Arabs around who don't like it, so what do they do? They invent a fictitious people and claim fictitious rights to the Land of Israel, only to fight the Zionist movement," Smotrich said.
The comments sparked condemnation from the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan.
Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, dubbed the minister's remarks "completely unhelpful," adding that the Palestinian people "obviously" exist.
Smotrich is part of veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-right government that took office in December.
He had already faced international rebuke in early March after calling for a Palestinian town in the occupied West Bank to be "wiped out", amid escalating violence.
"We call on persons who have been called to high office within the Israeli government to show the required dignity, to respect that of others and to refrain from all action or declaration that could contribute to the escalation of...