French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for talks with Saudi King Abdullah after warning of an extremist backlash if Middle East peace talks do not commence soon.
Abdullah greeted Sarkozy late in the afternoon at King Khalid International Airport and the two then headed for the king's desert farm in Riyadh's outskirts, where Sarkozy was supposed spend the night.
Talks between the two leaders focused on a range of regional and international issues including the Middle East peace process, the latest developments in Lebanon, Iraq and Iran besides ways to boost ties between Riyadh and Paris.
“In addition to the stalled Middle East peace process that needs to be revived as early as possible, King Abdullah and Sarkozy discussed many other issues during their one-on-one meeting,” said a diplomatic source.
Sarkozy had urged Israel and the Palestinians to promptly revive the Middle East peace process or else risk an extremist backlash, in an interview published on Tuesday .
"The priority is to restart as soon as possible the peace process," Sarkozy was quoted as saying by the Saudi al-Riyad daily.
"It is urgent because the current deadlock is in the hands of extremists and each day the chance of peace is slipping away a little," the French President said.
"The deadlock in which we find ourselves today is extremely worrying. But sometimes in these moments of great tensions solutions arise, because they give the actors the courage and strength to move forward," Sarkozy said.
"It is for us to help them," he added, citing in particular the United States, European Union and Russia.
Commenting on talks last week, Sarkozy said he called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt settlements and on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to remain "committed" to 2010 elections.
Abbas has announced that he would not stand for re-election in a general poll he called for Jan. 24 due to frustrations with the stalled peace process.
Sarkozy, who also met last week with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, welcomed the willingness of Israel and Syria to resume negotiations, suspended since Israel's devastating war on Gaza at the turn of the year.
"The Israelis and the Syrians expressed their willingness to resume negotiations," said the French President.
"They still need to agree on modalities. I'm not saying this will be easy, but confess that we have already advanced," he said, adding France was "available to facilitate the resumption of these talks."