Sarkozy says more than Shalit release needed for Hamas talks

19th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

French President Nicolas Sarkozy Tuesday expressed hope that stalled peace talks would restart with the release of dual-nationality Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, but added that Hamas had to do more before it could join the talks.

Shalit, captured in 2006 by Palestinian militants based in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, was released on Tuesday in exchange for Israel freeing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

"To free Gilad Shalit it was necessary for some people to talk with Hamas. It is a positive signal," Sarkozy said in an interview with AFP and other French media.

However, he added, for the Islamist Hamas movement to be represented at peace talks, "more than freeing Shalit is needed. It must recognise Israel and condemn all forms of violence."

"We haven't had contact with Hamas, which is currently considered as a terrorist organisation," he added.

Sarkozy also expressed the desire for Europe to push harder for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The French leader called Shalit's release "a huge relief" and said he expected the soldier to visit France "soon".

"The fact that Gilad was recognised as being French from the beginning contributed greatly, I think, to keeping him alive," Sarkozy said earlier in the southern French city of Nice.

Shalit has French nationality through his grandmother.

"I hope that this will allow talks to resume" between Israelis and Palestinians, Sarkozy said, voicing hope "that there are also detainees (in Israel) from the West Bank that could return to the West Bank."

The Palestinian Authority last week applauded France's efforts to obtain Shalit's release and said that Paris should also help secure the release of French-Palestinian Salah Hamouri who has been jailed by Israel since 2005.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas urged France to intervene on behalf of Hamouri, 26, who was arrested over allegations that he was plotting to assassinate a rabbi, a charge that he denies.

© 2011 AFP

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