France's President Nicolas Sarkozy promised on Tuesday that if re-elected his second foreign visit would be to Israel and the Palestinian territories to push a European peace initiative.
"I hope that France, and behind France all of Europe, take the initiative so that 2012 can be the year of peace between Israel and the Palestinians," Sarkozy said, in a television interview on his re-election campaign.
Sarkozy said his first foreign visit if re-elected would be to France's close EU ally Germany, but in "next few days" afterwards he would go to Israel and the Palestinian territories to try to restart the peace process.
"I regret that Europe has not been more determined," he said, referring to the stalled international attempts to revive the frozen peace process between Israel and its Palestinian neighbours.
Sarkozy also expressed doubt that, given the US electoral calendar, that the United States would be able to play its usual role as the main guarantor of the Middle East peace process in the coming months.
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"There is also a presidential election in the United States," he said.
"President Obama, who is a very great president, won't take the initiative before he's re-elected -- and I hope he will be -- but there's a place for France and a place for Europe," he said.
Direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been on hold since late September 2010, when they broke down shortly after they started in a dispute over Jewish settlement building on occupied land.
The Palestinians say they will not return to talks without an Israeli freeze on settlement construction and clear parameters setting the lines that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War as the basis for talks on borders.
Israel has declined those requests and says it wants talks without preconditions.
France has urged a moratorium on settlement building and wants both sides to begin direct talks on a two-state solution.