French FM urges cease-fire in Gaza

France's foreign minister urged Palestinian militants on Sunday to end Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip by releasing the Israeli soldier they captured. The minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, said the way to reduce the fighting in the Gaza Strip was for the militants to free Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, and to end their rockets attacks on Israel. "The escalation in violence concerns us and reducing it can be achieved by releasing the Israeli prisoner," Douste-Blazy said after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. But Douste-Blazy, who met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on Sunday, also urged Israel to end its offensive in Gaza and to release the Hamas ministers it recently arrested in the West Bank. "France is at the disposal of all parties" for talks aimed at ending the crisis, Douste-Blazy said.