Merkel thanks Egypt for helping free Shalit
German Chancellor Angela Merkel Tuesday welcomed the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit while praising Egypt for its role in clinching the exchange deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
"The chancellor thanks everyone involved in Shalit's release. Her special thanks go to the Egyptian government whose role has been crucial in the past months," her spokesman Steffan Seibert said in a statement.
"It is to be hoped that Israel and Egypt's successful collaboration in this regard will lead to a return to good-neighbourly relations between the two countries after the period of recent tensions," the statement said.
Suspected Islamist militants have recently been implicated in a series of attacks on a pipeline that exports gas to Israel.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also expressed satisfaction.
Alluding to his country's behind-the-scenes mediating role, he said in a statement he was pleased "that Germany was able to contribute to Shalit's release".
The head of the German intelligence service (BND), Ernst Uhrlau, last week indicated that his agents played a part in securing the release of Shalit in exchange for some 1,000 Palestinians detained by Israel.
Germany, along with Egypt, helped mediate several rounds of talks on a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas organisation. But talks broke down multiple times over the issue of which Palestinians would be released, and to where.
© 2011 AFP