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Gilad Shalit: Statement by French President Nicholas Sarkozy On Release of Gilad Shalit

(October 18, 2011)

The following is the verbatim text of a letter written by President Sarkozy and delivered from the French Ambassador to Israel to IDF soldier Gilad Shalit after his release from more than five years in Hamas captivity.

Dear Gilad,

On June 25, exactly five years after your abduction, I sent you a letter that your jailers probably did not allow you to read. I wrote you, shortly after receiving your father, that despite the interminable wait for your release, our efforts would succeed because your indefinite detention was revolting.

That day has finally come. Today, you have regained your freedom after 1,941 long days and 1,941 long nights of captivity, far from your loved ones, without knowing if you would see them again, five years stolen from your youth.

Today I want to pay tribute to your courage in this terrible ordeal, and tell you how happy and how moved we all are. All of France shares my joy at knowing you are back home in Mitzpe Hilla, surrounded by your parents, your brother and sister, and all your loved ones.

Allow me to express my admiration for your parents, Noam and Aviva. For five years, with a courage, determination and dignity that command respect, they never stopped working and rallying the entire world to obtain your release. Noam and Aviva are examples to us all.

France never forgot you. It relentlessly, stubbornly joined your parents’ efforts to ensure that this day—your return to freedom—would become a reality.

Since I was elected, I have made your release one of my priorities, because France never forgets its own. We supported each mediation effort, each effort by the Israeli authorities, each gesture, large or small. Thus, in 2008, after numerous attempts, we were able to convey to you a letter from your parents.

But it was the entire French people that mobilized. You should know that many cities displayed your picture on the wall of city hall to show their solidarity, and that on each anniversary of your captivity, many French people thought of you with emotion.

This day of joy was made possible by the courageous decision—which I applaud—by the Prime Minister and the Israeli government to free more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for bringing you home.

I hope that your release will give new momentum to the crucial dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. We must do everything we can to ensure that your ordeal was the last and that peace is finally established, in a manner that respects all the parties and their security.

This agreement shows that when all parties combine their efforts, the impossible becomes possible. The decisive role played by Egypt in your release should be applauded in this regard.

It remains for me to wish you, dear Gilad, an excellent return home, surrounded by your loved ones, and plenty of rest. When you feel ready, France will be happy to welcome you, to share the joy of your release with you and your family. I will be very happy to receive you at the Elysée.

Rest assured, Gilad, of all my affection and support, and that of France, in this new stage of your life.

Warm regards,

Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sources: French Embassy