The European Union’s foreign policy chief has called for the immediate release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held captive by Hamas in Gaza since 2006.
Catherine Ashton, who is on a three-day visit to the Middle-East, is urging Israel and Islamist Hamas to sign a prisoner swap deal.
After meeting Shalit’s parents Ashton told reporters his freedom would be an essential part of any peace deal.
“The issue of Corporal Shalit’s release is part of what we are demanding,” she said. “It is in my view absolutely essential that we never forget the needs of this young man are part of our desire to see peace in this area.”
The captive soldier’s father – who is also a French national – asked all parties involved to implement an EU resolution adopted earlier this year urging Hamas to free Shalit.
He said: “We expect more action and more firm action from the European Union in accordance with the European parliament Resolution from March 2010.”
Accompanied by thousands of supporters, the Shalit family recently ended a 12-day cross-country campaign, marching from their hometown in northern Israel to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem.