PARIS, July 2 (Xinhua) -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy will hold discussions with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Paris on July 12, one day ahead of the heads of state and government summit launching the Union for the Mediterranean (UPM),official sources said on Wednesday.
"The president of the republic will hold talks with the Syrian head of state on July 12 during a bilateral meeting because the two countries have things to say and things to build," the French presidential palace said in a statement.
"The Syrian president is not perfect, but he has made efforts," said the statement, which particularly mentioned "the election of a president in Lebanon..., the resumption of negotiations, even though indirect, between Syria and Israel, which are all major political development."
The statement lauded "the decision by the Syrian president, together with Arab leaders, to come to Paris and share the same table with the Israeli prime minister during the launch of the UPM."
"Last week, during his state visit to Israel, all the Israeli leaders that the president met took time to congratulate him for having invited the Syrian president to Paris," according to the Elysee palace.
The meeting between Sarkozy and Al-Assad will be the first one between the heads of state of the two countries since former French President Jacques Chirac decided to cut ties with Syria following the assassination of his "friend" and former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.
Shortly after his election early last year, Sarkozy moved to initiate direct contacts with the regime of the Syrian president as part of the efforts to unlock a deadlock over the election of a successor to Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.
However, at the end of December, France announced the suspension of high-level contacts, accusing Damascus of continuing to undermine the efforts to elect Michel Suleiman as president of Lebanon.
The contact resumed once again after the signing of an inter-Lebanese agreement in Doha, Qatar, in May and the subsequent election of Suleiman.
In a move that has left many observers baffled, the Lebanese head of state has not only been invited to attend the July 13 summit but also took part, on the following day, in a traditional military parade marking the French National Day.
Al-Assad's presence during the July 14 celebration on the Champs-Elysees has sparked controversy in France and protests in Lebanon.
Speaking during a recent press conference, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that he was particularly enthusiastic about the visit, nevertheless observing that it was "important to talk with people with whom we have differences."