Ashton: Gilad Shalit's release is part of Middle East Truce
Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit's release from captivity of the Palestinian movement HAMAS is part of a peace settlement in the Middle East, over which the European Union runs, EU High Representative for the Foreign and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said in her statement.
"The message that I wanted to give them is very clear. In everything that we do, in all the statements that I have made, in all of my meetings, the issue of Gilad Shalit's release is part of what we are demanding, "she said." It is in my view absolutely essential that we never forget that the needs of this young man are part of our desire to see peace in this area. "
During her visit to Israel and the Palestinian territory, Ashton met the parents of the captured Israeli soldier, who has been held in Gaza since June 2006. Shalit was captured by fighters of three Palestinian factions, including HAMAS, who infiltrated into the Israeli territory via the underground passage. The fighters killed Shalit's two fellows during the raids.
Negotiations on the exchange of 23-year tanker Shalit, running in mediation of Germany and Egypt for several reached an impasse after the Israeli government regarded the kidnappers' demands as excessive. The kidnappers sought to include the leaders of Palestinian factions sentenced to life terms, into bargain, RIA Novosti reported.
Ashton said she had discussed with the parents that what the EU was doing in trying to support ordinary people in Gaza was in essence to try and help that process.
"The more that everyone realizes that the situation cannot go on and calls for his release I hope the day will come nearer that he will be released," Ashton said.
The plan for Shalit's release was one of the objectives of a military operation Cast Lead, which Israel has held in Gaza in the winter 2008-2009 killing about 500 Palestinians.
In early July, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to release thousands of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons of in exchange for Shalit, but ruled out the release of "the leaders of terror." Despite pressure from the government and the public, Netanyahu made it clear that he would not pay "any price" for Shalit. "I stick to two principles - the terrorists do not have to return to the West Bank and Gaza, and the leaders of terror should not be freed," he said.
Last fall, the militants gave the Israelis a video with Shalit's treatment. Since, no information about his condition has been reported.