Amid a tiring military effort to stop islamist terrorists from gaining control of Mali, French President Francois Hollande spoke at a press conference Wednesday and touched on an entirely different topic relating to the Middle East - the Israeli-PA peace process.
Hollande announced that "immediately after the Israeli elections you should expect a French-brokered peace initiative in the Middle East, in order to bring Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table," the newspaper "Ma'ariv" reported on Wednesday.
With the Israeli election in less than a week, the international community is paying close attention to the outcome of the January 22nd vote and are patiently waiting to find out what kind of coalition will be formed before they make any official pleas for negotiations to resume. Hollande said he hopes that an agreement to return to the negotiation table will come as early as March.
"The year 2013 should be the decision year on the issue of peace in the Middle East," he said.
Holland's statement came after insiders in his government denied previous reports about a potential peace initiative brokered by France and Great Britain. Sources in the French government said that although the actions of France tend to be coordinated with the British government "because of the close proximity of the two countries", they stressed, "There is nothing currently on the table, contrary to reports published, as to a joint initiative between France and Britiain and there has been no formulation of this initiative."
Against the backdrop of seemingly continuous rifts between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, the United States is also likely to increase pressure on Jerusalem. White House spokesman Tommy Vitor said yesterday, "It is up to the two sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to be serious and resume talks. This is in order to deal with the difficult issues that separate them and to make significant progress towards sustainable, lasting peace."
Vitor added: "The United States will continue to assist both sides in these efforts."