EU delighted with FARC hostage operation

July 3rd, 2008 - 3:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, July 3 (DPA) The European Union’s (EU) top officials reacted with delight at the Colombian military operation which Wednesday ended in the release of 15 hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. “I have just learned with relief and joy of the release of the hostages taken by (Colombian guerrilla movement) FARC … I congratulate all those who worked for their release,” European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement in the early hours of Thursday.

“I am extremely relieved and very happy that Ingrid Betancourt’s six-year nightmare as well as the captivity of three US citizens and 11 Colombian officials have finally come to an end,” EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said.

“At the same time our hearts go out to those who remain in captivity … We call on their captors to release all their hostages immediately and unconditionally,” she said.

The dramatic release of Betancourt - who holds joint Colombian and French citizenship - and her 14 fellow-captives was engineered in a brilliant coup by the Colombian security forces, who tricked FARC rebels into handing over their prisoners.

Ferrero-Waldner paid tribute to the Colombian operation, congratulating the authorities on the success of their mission.

Barroso also sent the commission’s “best wishes” to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, adding: “I have to congratulate him for all his involvement which made this moment possible.”

“And I equally congratulate the President of Colombia, Mr (Alvaro) Uribe, thanking him for his action and that of Colombia,” he said.

While Sarkozy has lobbied tirelessly for Betancourt’s release, there is as yet no indication that he or the French authorities were involved in the rescue operation.

However, relations between Sarkozy and the commission have been strained in recent weeks, as the French president has sharply criticized the policies of the EU’s executive. Barroso’s message could well be taken as a peace offering.

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