Sarkozy wants to hold Mideast peace conference in Paris

January 20th, 2009 - 7:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Paris, Jan 20 (DPA) French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to convene a wide-ranging international Middle East peace conference here, the daily Le Figaro reported Tuesday, citing sources close to the president.Sarkozy introduced the idea of the peace conference at Sunday’s summit meeting in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh, saying that its aim would be “to finally secure peace this year”.

According to Le Figaro, the first step would be a meeting of foreign minister in Egypt, which would probably take place at the beginning of February.

Sources close to Sarkozy said that the international peace conference would then take place “within a matter of weeks”.

Sarkozy’s UMP party Monday hailed France’s role in the Middle East peace negotiations and conveyed the wish that the conference take place in the French capital, an idea seconded by Sarkozy’s advisers.

UMP spokesman Frederic Lefebvre said the strategy would be to have the Egyptians rally the Arab world while France “continues to bring Europe along”.

Reportedly, Sarkozy convinced German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to join the Sharm al-Sheikh summit.

Lost in Sarkozy’s characteristically ambitious diplomacy is the role of the European Union (EU) and its current president, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek.

However, after appearing to remain on the sidelines while Sarkozy acted, the Czechs have now scheduled two meetings in Brussels this week between EU foreign ministers and top officials from the Middle East.

The aim of both meetings is to look for ways to reinforce the fragile ceasefire agreed between Israel and Hamas, and to revive the peace process.

In addition, US president-elect Barack Obama, who is to be inaugurated as the 44th American president later Tuesday, will likely want to hold any major Middle East peace conference in or near Washington, as a sign that he intends to take a leading role in trying to resolve the crisis.

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