Israel's ground offensive in Gaza has increased the pressure on French President Nicolas Sarkozy to try and secure a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. Sarkozy will meet his Palestinian counterpart on Monday.
With U.S. President George W. Bush counting out the days before he formally departs on Jan. 20, Barack Obama still to take office and a lower-key
"No other leader has really put forward any initiatives," French Budget Minister Eric Woerth told
"I think he is the only one capable of taking an initiative like this," he said.
After handling crises from
In an interview with three Lebanese newspapers, Sarkozy said Hamas bore "a heavy responsibility for the sufferings of the Palestinian people" and said its rocket attacks had to stop.
But he also condemned the Israeli ground offensive and urged
The trip will not be made any easier by having to tread carefully around a separate visit at the same time led by Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who will formally be speaking for the EU as a whole.
Big pro-Palestinian demonstrations in
While French diplomats have been scrupulous in deferring publicly to the Czech EU presidency and Sarkozy made sure to speak with European partners like
"The emergency is compelling us to act," one French diplomat told Reuters.
But conscious that his hyperactive style and refusal to stand by while events unfold has often been criticised as putting show over substance, he has been uncharacteristically quiet about the crisis in recent days.
"The less we talk about it, the better it is," he told a small group of French journalists last week. "It's very complicated."
| Map of President Sarkozy's Middle East tour on Jan 5-6
Date created : 2009-01-04