Merkel and Sarkozy - AP - June 17, 2011.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy brief the media during a press conference after their meeting in Berlin, Germany, Friday, June 17, 2011. Photo by AP
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a joint call Friday for the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit as part of a deal with Hamas.

Merkel and Sarkozy have each called for Shalit's release in the past, but this marks the first time the two European leaders issued a joint call on the matter, which was an unusual move at a meeting meant to discuss the urgent Greece debt crisis.

The comments come eight days before the fifth anniversary of Gilad Shalit's abduction.

Israeli sources close to the negotiations said the international move carried large significance.

According to reports in the Arab world, there has been a renewed attempt at advancing negotiations in hope to secure a deal which would free Shalit. Israeli sources have abstained from estimating the chances of such a move.

Moreover, foreign media has reported that Egypt has been recently stepping up its involvement in negotiations based on the plan German mediator Gerhard Conrad has outlined in the past.

Cairo would like to leverage its new regime's improved relationship with Gaza's Hamas rulers after it had helped draw up a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah.

Israeli officials believe Egypt has a strong interest in advancing a deal on Shalit after its success in mediating the Palestinian reconciliation agreement.