France hails Israeli-Palestinian prisoner swap deal
France on Wednesday hailed a deal to release an Israeli-French hostage held by Hamas in Gaza for five years, with President Nicolas Sarkozy calling the agreement a "major success" for Israel.
Israel and Hamas announced the landmark deal on Tuesday to secure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is also a French citizen, in exchange for more than a 1,000 Palestinian detainees.
Sarkozy's office said the president was "delighted" at the news of the deal and "thanked all those who contributed to this agreement, notably Egypt for the essential role it played."
The French head of state had spoken by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and congratulated him for this "major success," said the statement, released late Tuesday.
Sarkozy also spoke with Noam Shalit, the father of the 25-year-old, and told him of his "joy that Gilad will soon be released," the statement said.
Speaking to France Info radio on Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Alan Juppe praised Israeli authorities for having the "courage" to make the deal.
"It took some (courage) to free 1,000 (Palestinian) prisoners," he said.
Since Shalit was captured in a deadly cross-border raid on June 25, 2006 by militants from three Gaza-based groups, France had constantly made efforts to get him released, Sarkozy's office said.
"The president hopes that after more than five years of waiting, Gilad will very quickly be returned to his family and freedom."
© 2011 AFP