Sarkozy delighted, congratulates Natanyahu over Shalit deal
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was "delighted" at the news of a deal to release an Israeli-French hostage held in Hamas in Gaza for five years, his office said late Tuesday.
The French head of state had spoken by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Banjamin Netanyahu and congratulated him for this "major success," the Elysee Palace said in a statement.
Israel and Hamas had agreed a landmark deal to secure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian detainees, officials on both sides said earlier Tuesday.
Sarkozy also spoke with Noam Shalit, the father of the 25-year-old who also has French nationality, and told him of his "joy that Gilad will soon be released," the Elysee said.
The French president "had talks during the evening with Prime Minister Netanyahu, whom he congratulated for this major success. He also spoke with Noam Shalit whom he had personally kept informed about the efforts made in favour of his son," the statement said.
Sarkozy "thanked all those who contributed to this agreement, notably Egypt for the essential role it played."
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, the Elysee said.
"The president hopes that after more than six years of waiting, Gilad will very quickly be returned to his family and freedom."
© 2011 AFP