Ahead of his arrival in Turkey, Mubarak was in Paris where he had talks focusing on the Middle East peace process with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose interest in becoming a key player in the process has been known for a while.
In Paris on Monday, Mubarak and Sarkozy expressed grave concern about the Middle East peace process and said they hoped to restart Palestinian-Israeli peace talks soon. Sarkozy emphasized the need “to re-launch the Palestine-Israel negotiations and to obtain resolution in 2010,” a statement released by the Elysée Palace said.
Turkey, a NATO member and a candidate for European Union membership, has in recent years focused on boosting its political and economic cooperation with Middle Eastern countries and has sought to establish itself as a broker in regional conflicts.
Sarkozy’s attempts to establish France as a key player in the Middle East are considered to be at the expense of Turkey, a country which has a growing reputation for being a credible mediator in the Middle East. Thus, when he attempted to bring Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Syrian President al-Assad together in Paris in November, al-Assad said France could help the peace efforts by pressuring Israel to return to Turkish-mediated talks. Netanyahu, on the other hand, signaled his readiness for a French role in talks with Syria.
At the time, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he did not think al-Assad would accept a French role in mediating with Israel. “Now France is trying to take up the role we had,” Erdoğan said. “I’m not sure what kind of stance Bashar al-Assad will take, but from what I’ve heard from him, they’re not going to accept something like this.” Erdoğan also said Turkey was ready to resume mediating talks between Israel and Syria, but added that Israel does not trust Turkey.