President Nicolas Sarkozy, since his accession in May 2007, has attracted considerable attention and media coverage, not only for his captivating private life, but also due to his numerous internal reform initiatives and his intensive diplomatic agenda on the international scene. Many commentators have claimed that Sarkozy’s election has dramatically transformed France’s foreign policy in general and its Middle Eastern diplomacy in particular. Sarkozy himself, who focused his electoral campaign on the idea of change, asserted in his most recent address to the diplomatic corps, on Aug. 27, 2008, that his foreign and Middle Eastern policy represented a significant break with the past.1
Sarkozy’s Policy in the Middle-East: A Break with the Past?
Nicolas Sarkozy’s election as France’s president in May 2007 has marked a rhetorical change in the foreign policy of Paris and has made the French presidency much more dynamic. Sarkozy has led many international initiatives and increased France’s presence in international and Middle Eastern arenas. Despite all these developments, however, France’s Middle-Eastern policy has been characterized by a large degree of continuity since Sarkozy has embraced traditional French perceptions and agenda concerning the Middle East. Thus, he has continued France’s so-called ‘Arab policy’, and mainly pursued past policies on key regional issues such as the Israeli-Arab conflict. Consequently, Sarkozy’s declarations concerning the changing nature of French policy do not seem fully compatible with reality. So far there has also been a gap between France’s optimistic assessment of the results of its Middle Eastern policy versus the less impressive outcomes on the ground.
Sarkozy often asserted that the Union for the Mediterranean could bring peace to the region by promoting economic cooperation.
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