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French President Nicolas Sarkozy was quoted Tuesday as saying his country was ready to facilitate a resumption of talks between Syria and Israel, while warning that extremists could benefit from a continued deadlock in the Middle East peace process.
The United States, the European Union and Russia should stand together by regional powers to relaunch the peace process, according to Sarkozy, who began a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
"The deadlock that we find ourselves in today is very worrying," he told the Saudi Al-Riyadh daily in an interview.
King Abdullah met Sarkozy at the airport and the two later headed to the king's farm outside Riyadh.
Sarkozy, on his third visit to the kingdom in less than two years, did not bring any of his ministers or delegates with him, apparently preferring an understated, personal approach to the discussions on the Middle East, Iran's nuclear program and bids by French companies for major Saudi development projects.
Meanwhile, his foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, was in Amman on Tuesday for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. On Wednesday, he travels to Israel for talks with government officials.
Sarkozy met last week in Paris with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Syrian President Bashar Assad to try to revive the entire Middle East peace effort as well as the Israel-Syria track.
But Assad said any French role in Israeli-Syrian discussions would only be as a backup to Turkish mediation. France "should support the role of the Turkish mediator and persuade Israel to return to the negotiating table with the Turkish mediator," Assad said on French TV Friday.
In the Al-Riyadh interview, Sarkozy said he told both Assad and Netanyahu that "France is ready to facilitate a restart of the talks if both parties thought we could help in this effort."