BEIRUT: Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani vowed Wednesday to help secure the release of the kidnapped bishops in Syria as Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim held talks with President Bashar Assad over the same issue.
During talks with Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai in Doha, the emir said "he would exert all efforts to resolve the case of the bishops."
He affirmed to Rai his commitment to the Christian presence in Lebanon and the Middle East.
The Qatari emir also said that the Lebanese case is his top priority and that his country supported stability in the tiny Mediterranean state.
Rai had said in remarks upon his departure to Doha Tuesday evening that he would request Qatar’s help in winning the release of the bishops who were kidnapped in April near the Syria-Turkey border.
“Certainly, we will ask the emir of Qatar and Qatari officials to put up their best effort with us and with the involved state to determine the fate of the bishops and three other priests kidnapped months ago,” Rai said from Beirut airport before heading to Doha on an official visit.
Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were abducted in April by armed men near the Turkish border.
Rai also met with Qatari Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s General Security, met with Assad in Damascus to discuss the case of the bishops, the National News Agency reported.
Ibrahim has been tasked by the Lebanese government to follow up on the case of the bishops in Syria.
Qatar News Agency said Rai expressed to Tamim his “gratitude and appreciation" for Doha’s role in securing the weekend release of the nine Lebanese Shiite men held for 17 months by Syrian rebels.
Two Turkish Airlines pilots abducted in Beirut were also released Saturday as part of the swap deal chiefly brokered by Doha.
“We hope that all people wherever they are being unjustly detained be freed,” Rai added.
The Maronite Catholic patriarch also expressed hope that Qatar will play a “positive role” just as it did in securing the release last week of nine Lebanese pilgrims in exchange for two Turkish pilots.
Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X Yazigi whose brother is one of the abducted bishops said that officials were dealing with the case with a high level of seriousness but there were no new developments.
"There is nothing new in their case but we hope and pray,” Yazigi told reporters after meeting with Greek religious figures.
“The president, the [caretaker] interior minister and Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim have called me and all the contacts affirm that there is a high level of seriousness toward the issue,” he added.
Greek Orthodox Bishop of Mexico Antonios Shadrawi held the international and local community responsible for the continued abduction of the bishops, saying "kidnappings do not frighten us."
He also called for serious efforts to help release the prelates.
In Qatar, Rai also said he would call for closer cooperation between Beirut and Gulf countries.
“When we visit these [Gulf] countries we speak Lebanese as we cannot separate between the various components of Lebanon,” he said. “This is Lebanon’s value.”