Israeli President Shimon Peres this morning accepted the credentials of the incoming French ambassador, HE Cristophe Bigot. He used the occasion to mention the progress made towards the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is also a French citizen. According to the President, in the first stage, Israel would release 20 Palestinian prisoners and Hamas would supply current information on Shalit. “This is a positive step in the negotiations, but the road to his release is still long and not simple, and we do not want to create any illusions,” the President said.
The President added that he was “very proud of the steadfastness of the Shalit family, which is enduring years of indescribable suffering,” and thanked Egypt and Germany for their mediation efforts for the release of the captive soldier. In late morning, President Peres met with special envoy Hagai Hadas, who briefed him on the latest developments and the continuation of the negotiations.
Pres. Peres asked the new ambassador to convey his special thanks to French President Nicolas Sarkozy for the French government’s dedicated treatment of the Shalit family and for the French president’s determined, courageous and unequivocal stand against the Iranian nuclear program. “This is the hour of decision for the entire world, not only for Israel. If Iran continues its attempts to create an atomic bomb of mass destruction, the entire world will spin out of control. Iran ruined Lebanon with its support of Hizbullah, it ruined Gaza with its support of Hamas, and it is now trying to rule through terror, extremism and incitement.”
Ambassador Bigot told the president, “I came with a special greeting from Sarkozy and Kouchner and with a clear message that France will continue in its firm stand against the development of nuclear arms by Iran. France has a clear position that the negotiations with Iran must be limited in time and have clear results.” The ambassador added that France was determined to continue assisting Israel in advancing its negotiations with the Palestinians and in strengthening its strategic relations with Israel. “Israel is France’s historical friend and Israeli-French relations are very important to us.”
Regarding Gilad Shalit, Ambassador Bigot said, “The French government will continue to support and accompany the Shalit family. We will not give up until he is released. The first thing I did when I arrived in Israel was to visit Noam and Aviva, and it was an emotional, tearful visit.”
Among the ambassadors who presented their credentials to the president this morning, in addition to the French ambassador, were the ambassador of Lithuania, HE Mr. Darius Degutis, the ambassador of Macedonia, HE Mr. Pajo Avirovik, the ambassador of Uruguay, HE Mr. Bernardo Greiver, and the ambassador of Ireland, HE Mr. Breifne O’Reilly.