BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman thanked Saturday regional countries for their efforts in securing the release of nine Lebanese who were held hostage in Syria for over a year.
The president also took the opportunity to remember the thousands who went missing during the years of Lebanon's Civil War.
Meanwhile, Syria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Walid al-Moallem contacted Sunday caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour and congratulated him on the safe return of the Lebanese.
Mansour thanked Syria for its stance and cooperation which resulted in the release, while Moallem affirmed Syria would not spare any efforts in helping Lebanon.
According to his office, Sleiman contacted Turkish President Abdullah Gul to congratulate him on the safe return of the Turkish Airlines pilots and thanked him for his efforts in releasing the Lebanese.
A three-way swap deal resulted Friday in the release of the nine Lebanese, two Turkish Airlines pilots kidnapped in Beirut in retaliation to the Lebanese’ abduction and over 100 female detainees in Syrian prisons.
The rebel group holding the Shiite Lebanese pilgrims, who were kidnapped on May 22 of last year as they traveled home from a pilgrimage in Iran, demanded the release of some 157 Syrian women imprisoned by the regime.
The 11 Lebanese were abducted near the Aleppo district of Azaz. Two of the group were released last year.
The Turkish nationals who were snatched on the Beirut airport road on Aug. 9 were released in the Bekaa and transferred to Beirut international airport by military helicopter.
Head of Lebanon’s General Security Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim had engaged in negotiations between Syria and Turkey to reach the release deal, which only witnessed a major breakthrough days after Qatar said it would intervene to immediately resolve the case.
Sleiman congratulated the Lebanese on their return and thanked all the countries that have exerted efforts to release them and contribute to their happy ending.
“A special thanks and appreciation to caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, the ministerial committee which was tasked with the case and Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim for maintaining contacts with Turkish, Qatari, Syrian and Palestinian authorities which all cooperated to satisfy the conditions of the deal,” Sleiman said.
Ibrahim is also tasked with the case of Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim who were abducted in April by armed men near the Turkish border.
"Lebanon is concerned with every citizen who was a target of abduction or arbitrary detention according to national and ethical logic,” Sleiman said.
“While we hope for the release of kidnapped bishops, Lebanese who went missing during the Civil War remain in our minds as well as the duty to commit to work on revealing their fate, releasing or repatriating their bodies,” he added.