Sarkozy: France will not forget Gilad Schalit

French president expresses support for family; Egyptian sources say talks to begin within 10 days.

Gilad Schalit 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gilad Schalit 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed support for Israel in its struggle to free kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, AFP reported early Thursday morning. "France will never forget Gilad Schalit," he was quoted as saying. Speaking of the release of Ingrid Betancourt, who had been held hostage by Colombian rebels, the French president ended his address with "a message to Gilad Schalit and his parents." "We have not forgotten," he said, "France is always ready to enlist in the battle for a man held unjustly." Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's emissary on the prisoner issue, Ofer Dekel, and Hamas representatives are expected to begin intensive indirect negotiations for Schalit's release within a week to 10 days, Egyptian sources said Wednesday. Before that time, the security cabinet is expected to convene and discuss changing the criteria governing which Palestinians can be released, to allow Dekel more flexibility in the negotiations. A number of suggestions have been raised, including releasing prisoners with "blood on their hands" who the security establishment believes will be unlikely to return to terrorism if they are released, or to make the release conditional on the prisoners being deported to the Gaza Strip or abroad. According to the Egyptian sources, Dekel was in Cairo to discuss the issue last Thursday, and returned to Israel the next day to update the prime minister on the talks and await further instructions. The Egyptian sources said Egypt was pressing forward on this issue and wanted to see it resolved quickly. The source said the Rafah crossing from the Gaza Strip into Egypt would not be opened until Schalit was released. Also Wednesday, Schalit's father, Noam, said that the family had not heard or received anything new from their son. Noam Schalit's comments followed a report in Cairo's Al-Ahram weekly on Tuesday that Hamas had released another video tape of Gilad, as well as a letter from the soldier, to Egyptian authorities. Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.