BEIRUT: Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for a two-way effort with Turkey for the release of Lebanese and Turkish hostages Tuesday, while Ankara urged Beirut not to link the issues directly together.
The remarks came during meetings held separately between Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon Inan Ozyildiz, Mikati and caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel.
“The Lebanese government is carrying out all the appropriate measures to reveal the fate of the two Turkish pilots who were kidnapped on the airport road,” Mikati told Ozyildiz during their meeting at the Grand Serail. according to his press office.
“[Mikati] stressed at the same time the importance of Turkish authorities to exert efforts to help secure the release the Lebanese held in Azaz,” Mikati added, according to a statement from his office.
Two Turkish Airlines pilots were kidnapped on their way to a hotel in Beirut shortly after leaving the Rafik Hariri International Airport on Aug. 9.
A group calling itself Zuwwar al-Imam Ali al-Reda claimed responsibility for the abduction, demanding in exchange the release of nine Shiite Lebanese held in Syria since May 2012.
Relatives of the Lebanese hostages blame Turkey for not doing enough to win the hostages' release and have staged a number of protests against Turkish institutions in Lebanon.
Turkey has repeatedly said it was exerting efforts to free the Lebanese men.
Charbel’s office said the Turkish ambassador conveyed to the caretaker interior minister his country’s wish not to link the issue of the Lebanese hostages with that of the Turkish pilots.
Charbel agrees with Odyildiz that the two issues should be separated, according to the statement from his office.
The statement also said Charbel urged the Turkish ambassador to continue efforts to win the release of the nine Lebanese hostages.