French official: Assad may help to release Schalit

Elys?e Palace secretary-general: We have reasons to think Syrian president will assist with issue.

claude gueant 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
claude gueant 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Syrian President Bashar Assad promised to help secure the release of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, who has been held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip for more than three years, according to Claude Guéant, secretary-general of the French presidential Elysée Palace. Guéant made the remark in an interview with French radio station Europe-1 aired on Sunday. Schalit holds dual Israeli-French citizenship and France has been vocal in calling for his release. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has also met with Schalit's father Noam and has pledged to do his utmost to bring about the release of the soldier. Guéant recently concluded a visit to Damascus where he had been dispatched together with Jean-David Levitte, Sarkozy's diplomatic adviser. In the Europe-1 interview, the secretary-general pointed to the weight Syria holds in the Middle East, saying "you can't settle anything in that region without [Syria]." He confirmed having discussed the issue of Schalit with the Syrian president during the visit, saying, "We asked him for his assistance and we have good reasons to believe that his assistance has been given to us," adding that the liberation of the captive soldier "depends on no one but [Assad]." Guéant also said he believed Schalit was in good health. "The indirect news that we receive leads us to believe he is being held in good health," he told the station.