The French government confirmed overnight the identity of one of its nationals, Serge Lazarevic, who appeared in a video released by Al-Qaeda in North Africa and who is the last remaining French hostage held worldwide.
Lazarevic, looking exhausted in the video, was formally identified by the French Presidency which said it was "recent proof of life" for the 50-year-old.
The hostage appealed to President Francois Hollande to obtain his freedom from Al-Qaeda for an Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has taken a number of French hostages over the years in Mali and Niger and other parts of the Sahel and has both released and executed among their number.
Lazarevic, the last of these hostages, explained in the short video that he was gravely ill and his life was in danger.
"The President of the Republic is in permanent contact with the authorities of the countries of the region to use all forms of dialogue to permit the release of our hostage," the Elysee Palace said in a statement early Tuesday.
Despite official denials, several press organs here have suggested France has paid tens of millions of dollars in ransoms in the past for the release of its nationals or has negotiated deals with local governments to have ransoms paid or prisoner release arrangements made to recover kidnapped nationals.
Hollande, on several occasions, has said that France does not pay ransoms, but this does not exclude the possibility of third-party payments by friendly countries or governments.
Authorities here refuse to comment negotiations with kidnappers as they say discretion serves the interest of the hostages. Such negotiations are often carried out by French intelligence officers via local officials or prominent figures.
France has had notable success in retrieving kidnapped nationals from Sahel and from Boko Haram in Nigeria in recent years.
But one French hostage was executed in September by a group, Jund Al-Khilafah, an Algerian extremist group that has pledged allegiance to ISIL.