French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Tuesday that he will soon meet the Israeli soldier in Paris. Shalit is also a French national and the Élysée Palace was involved in efforts to secure his release. "The French people are very much relieved by Shalit's release from captivity," Sarkozy said.
Gilad Shalit with father Noam, PM, Defense Minister (Photo: IDF)
Sarkozy expressed hope that Shalit's release will enable a resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. He added that he hoped to see more Palestinians imprisoned in Israel freed to their homes in the West Bank.
In a statement Tuesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said, "I know that people across Britain will share in the joy and relief felt by Gilad Shalit and his family today."
"I can only imagine the heartache of the last five years, and I am full of admiration for the courage and fortitude which Sgt Shalit and his family have shown through his long, cruel and unjustified captivity."
Cameron went on to congratulate his Israeli counterpart saying: "I congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu and everyone involved for bringing him home safely, and hope this prisoner exchange will bring peace a step closer.
- For full coverage of Shalit's return to Israel, click here
"Britain will continue to stand by Israel in defeating terrorism. We remain strongly committed to the cause of peace in the Middle East - with Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side in security.
"We will continue to work for direct negotiations to achieve that end."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon shared Cameron's sentiments and said that he expected the Israeli-Palestinian prisoner exchange to boost prospects for the wider peace process.
"With this release, it will have a far-reaching positive impact to the stalled Middle East peace process," Ban told Reuters at the end of a three-day trip to Switzerland.
"I am very encouraged by the prisoner exchange today after many many years of negotiation. The United Nations has been calling for (an end to) the unacceptable detention of Gilad Shalit and also the release of all Palestinians whose human rights have been abused all the time."
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he hoped that the release of Marwan Barghouti, Ahmad Sa'adat and Ibrahim Hamed were not far off.
In an interview he was forced to give to Egyptian media earlier on Tuesday Gilad Shalit said: "I thought I'd find myself in this situation for many years to come, and added: "I missed my family, meeting people and talking to them."
Security officials noted that the interview was held despite Israel's refusal, and significantly delayed his return to Israel.
News agencies contributed to the report
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