French foreign minister kicks off Mideast tour
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French Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie has landed in Israel for the first lap of her Middle East tour as she battles a controversy over her offer to assist deposed leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali during last week's uprising. Alliot-Marie will also be touring the Palestinian territories, Egypt and Jordan.
The trip is expected to focus on ways to restart the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians which broke down following Israel's refusal to extend a moratorium on settlement contructions.
"We must move towards peace," said Alliot-Marie on her arrival In Israel, "it's in everybody's interest and it's in the interest of Israel's security."
Alliot-Marie is to meet top Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defence Minster Ehud Barak.
She will also meet with Palestinian premier Salam Fayyad in east Jerusalem.
The French foreign minister is facing a wave of protest over her response to regime change in Tunisia. Last week, she offered Ben Ali help in controlling the riots which led to his downfall.
Alliot-Marie was forced to justify her offer and said that she had been shocked by scenes of Tunisian police shooting at demonstrators in the street.
France has since offered its help in organising elections in Tunisia and taken moves to monitor Ben Ali's bank accounts in France.