BEIRUT: A deal running in parallel with efforts to free the nine kidnapped Lebanese in Syria could see the release of two Greek Orthodox bishops who were kidnapped in Lebanon’s neighbor earlier this year, the head of the Syriac League told The Daily Star Friday.
“There are positive signs over an imminent release of the two bishops,” said Habib Afram.
“We were informed by [General Security chief] Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim that in parallel to the deal to free the Azaz hostages, there is a deal to secure the release of the bishops,” he said.
Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were kidnapped on April 22 by armed men while en route to Aleppo from the Turkish border.
They are reportedly being held by a small group of rebels in the Syrian town of Bshaqtin, 20 kilometers northwest of Aleppo.
Afram said that the Turks, who are helping to resolve the case of the Lebanese hostages in Syria, informed Ibrahim that they were also working to secure the release of the two bishops.
“They said they [bishops] might be released before Eid al-Adha and they reassured us that they are fine,” he said.
A report published in An-Nahar daily Friday said the two bishops are scheduled to take part in a conference on Oct. 25 in the capital of Liechtenstein.
According to the daily, their inclusion on the list of guests lends support to reports the two prelates will be released soon.
Optimism has been high recently over the release of the nine Lebanese hostages who have been held in Syria for over 14 months.
A source close to the case said the nine could be released before the Eid al-Adha holiday next week.
Ibrahim, tasked with following up on the case, headed to Turkey Thursday night as part of his efforts to resolve the case of the Lebanese abductees.