ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (AFP) - US President Barack Obama urged Pope Benedict XVI on Friday to keep reminding all parties to Middle East peace efforts of their responsibilities, the White House said. During a roughly 30-minute, one-on-one talk at the Vatican, Obama underlined his commitment to ending the Arab-Israeli conflict and expressed appreciation for the longstanding efforts of the Holy See and the Pope himself in promoting that, Deputy US National Security Adviser Denis McDonough told reporters. The US president told the pontiff that all sides have responsibilities in this effort and vowed to continue delivering that message, McDonough said aboard Obamas official Air Force One airplane as he travelled to Ghana. Obama also expressed his hope that the holy father would continue to do that as well, including responsibilities that we believe are important, not just from Israelis but also from the neighbouring Arab states, said McDonough. Meanwhie, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Friday that the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians was not moving forward though there is progress in the Middle East as a whole. In the region, things are moving... countries such as Syria and Saudi Arabia appear to be moving closer to one another, Kouchner said after meeting Lebanese President Michel Sleiman. In the Middle East, things seem to be advancing. But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not moving forward on the contrary, Kouchner said in Beirut. The situation is a worry for France but we are very hopeful that this will move forward as well, meaning (the creation of) a viable, independent Palestinian state that can live in peace side by side with Israel, he added. The French minister reiterated a call for Israel to freeze its settlement activity and urged the Jewish state to resume peace talks. Israel has refused to stop construction work in settlements in occupied territory, which the international community considers illegal and which is one of the major obstacles in the hobbled Middle East peace process. In a move considered a sign of rapprochement, Saudi Arabia in June named an ambassador to Syria after leaving the post vacant for a year. Relations between the two had soured following the allegedly Syrian-linked 2005 assassination of Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, who was close to the Saudi monarchy. Damascus has denied any link. Riyadh was also unhappy about Damascuss warm relations with Saudi arch-rival Iran and their support for the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah. Diplomats in Riyadh say the Saudis have viewed approvingly Damascuss apparent non-interference in Lebanons recent elections, which led to the designation of Hariris son, Saad Hariri, as next prime minister. Kouchner, who on Friday held talks with officials including Hariri and Hezbollah international relations chief Nawaf Moussawi, called for the formation of a Lebanese government without any foreign intervention. It is up to the prime minister-designate to form a government (after consultations) within Lebanon or abroad, whatever he wants, Kouchner told reporters. It is not for France to advise on this. The French FM also said he was pleased with the improvement of his countrys relations with Syria, Lebanons former powerbroker. I am not unaware that Syria continues to be important in this part of the world, and we are pleased to have established normal relations with Syria, he said. Kouchner heads to Damascus on Saturday for a two-day visit.