France has talked to journalist hostages in Afghanistan

24th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

French forces have talked by telephone to two journalists held hostage in Afghanistan and have reason to hope they will be freed before the end of the year, the country's top officer said Friday.

"We have a communication channel which means we have various proofs of life," said Admiral Edouard Guillaud, France's head of military staff.

"No-one has seen them," he told Europe 1 radio. "We've been able to speak to them by telephone and we have other proofs of life that show they are coping bravely with the shock.

"I wasn't present for this conversation but, in addition to passing on their kidnappers' demands, their morale was good, they're managing. The communications channel works, we can negotiate."

Asked if the reporters might be home for December 25 to celebrate Christmas with their families, the admiral said: "That's a reasonable hope, yes."

Stephane Taponier and Herve Ghesquiere, a reporter and a cameraman for the state-owned television channel France 3, were kidnapped in Afghanistan on December 30 last year in an area rife with anti-government insurgents.

"They are demanding, as is usual, all sorts of things: There could be financial demands, demands to free a certain number of their own held in different parts of the world, demands for unilateral withdrawals from one area or another," Guillaud said.

Asked it France was prepared to negotiate a ransom, Guillaud noted that last month President Nicolas Sarkozy had warned that paying hostage-takers could not be a long term strategy, and said ransom prices were rising.

Nevertheless, he said that France would adopt a flexible strategy. "Everything is a question of circumstances. No two hostage-takings are the same. We will adapt," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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