Statement by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan

23.12.2003 I would like to express my heart-felt happiness on the release of the four Israelis and the British citizen who were kidnapped and held by the ELN in Columbia for the past several months. I would also like to express the deep gratitude of the Israeli Government and people to everyone who contributed to the tireless and non-stop efforts to reach this moment. First and foremost, I would like to thank the government of Columbia and its President Alvaro Uribe along with all representatives of the Church who negotiated for the release of the hostages.

Over the past months, we have stood with the families of the hostages as they dealt with this difficult situation and patiently waited for the return of their loved ones. I would like to thank the team formed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the staff at the Embassy in Bogota, headed by Ambassador Yair Recanati who spared no effort in aiding release efforts and was available for hostage family members during their most difficult hours. The release of the hostages during the holiday of Chanukah adds light and joy to every home in Israel. I hope that the families that have been reunited with their loved ones will return to us and light the last Chanukah candles here in Israel.