News

Sarkozy Leads Charge in Reinvigorating Stalled Peace Talks

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been pushing the stalled Middle East peace process this week, holding talks with Middle East leaders including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) welcomes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris. 13 Nov 2009
French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) welcomes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris. 13 Nov 2009

Multimedia

Audio
Lisa Bryant

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been pushing the stalled Middle East peace process this week, holding talks with Middle East leaders including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday.  But Mr. Assad, for one, has dismissed the idea of direct talks with Israel for the moment.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the French news agency, AFP, Friday he was not willing to hold direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling instead for lower level Turkish mediation.  Mr. al-Assad was reported to have made the comments in Paris following talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and an invitation for dialogue from the Israeli prime minister.

Earlier, Mr. al-Assad told the French daily Le Figaro that the Obama administration needed to develop a plan of action before talks with Israel could take place.

The discussions between French and Syrian leaders caps a flurry of diplomatic activity by the French president, who has been trying to nudge the two sides to resume long stalled peace negotiations.  Mr. Sarkozy met with Mr. Netanyahu in Paris on Wednesday and on Thursday spoke by telephone with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who says he does not want to run for another term.

The French presidency has issued statements emphasizing the need to rekindle the Middle East peace process on all fronts, including the Syrian one.  Relations between France and Syria have been warming lately, and the two leaders traded visits last year.

In an interview earlier this week on French radio, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said France - and the European Union - had a role to play in moving the stalled peace process forward.

Kouchner said it was important to persuade Mr. Abbas to continue as Palestinian president. He said France had good ties with the Palestinians and Israelis and both France and Europe had a position that counted in the region. He said he would be traveling to the Middle East shortly.

Middle East expert Robin Lowe believes Mr. Sarkozy is pushing the peace process now because other efforts, including by Washington, appear to be floundering. But Lowe, an analyst at London policy institute Chatham House, is not certain that French mediation will make much difference.

"The French position or the French presence is problematic in the Palestinian context," said Lowe. "The Israelis are not normally minded to listen to any great extent to the French and as everybody is aware, ultimately the only player with any real heavy clout is the United States. I would be very surprised if any French move was separate from the European Union. I'm sure it's been coordinated with them. But ultimately, there's a limited amount they can achieve."

Still, France has historic ties in the Middle East. France also has Western Europe's largest populations of Jews and Muslims. Which means that what happens in the Middle East matters in France.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs