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Sarkozy to Shalit: Paris is Waiting to Greet You

In a letter, French President Nicholas Sarkozy told Gilad Shalit that he 'saluted his bravery,' and invited the freed soldier to visit Paris
By David Lev
First Publish: 10/18/2011, 10:54 PM

Shalit on phone with family.
Shalit on phone with family.
IDF Spokesman

The French Ambassador to Israel, Cristophe Bigot, met on Tuesday night with Gilad Shalit and his family. Bigot presented a letter to Shalit from French President Nicholas Sarkozy, whom the ambassador said was “overjoyed” at the release of Shalit, who is a dual Israeli-French citizen.

In the letter, Sarkozy wrote to Shalit that he “saluted the bravery you showed during this difficult period, and I wish to express the joy and happiness we all feel for you. All France is happy for your return home to Mitzpe Hila. I want you to know how much I respect your parents Noam and Aviva,” Sarkozy continued. “They are an example to all of us. France will never forget you.”

Sarkozy invited Shalit to visit France, when he felt up to it. “We would like to invite you and your family to share the joy at your release. It will be a great honor for me to receive you in the Elysees Palace,” he wrote.

Other international leaders and diplomats also expressed their congratulations at Gilad's release. British Prime Minister David Cameron said that he felt “joy and relief” that Shalit was home.

“I know that people across Britain will share in the joy and relief felt by Gilad Shalit and his family today,” Cameron said in a statement. “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.

"I congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu and everyone involved for bringing him home safely, and hope this prisoner exchange will bring peace a step closer. 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," Cameron added.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also expressed happiness that Shalit was released. “We are pleased that a long ordeal… has ended for Gilad Shalit,” Clinton said whole on a visit to Libya.

Speaking on behalf of U.S. President Barack H. Obama, White House spokesperson Jay Carney said that “We are pleased that Mr. Shalit is being reunited with his family - as regards [the] overall process, for us it’s always about each side taking steps that make it easier to return to negotiations instead of harder.”

Later, however, reports said that U.S. officials criticized the deal, saying that it would encourage more terrorism.