BEIRUT: Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamid al-Thani appeared to offer an olive branch to Syria by asking General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim to relay his nation’s willingness to “open a new chapter” in relations between the two countries, a high-ranking political source told The Daily Star Friday. Ibrahim was in Qatar to ask the emir for assistance in resolving the case of two bishops abducted in Syria this year.
Tamim assumed the helm as Qatar’s emir in June, after his father abdicated. The new emir has not explicitly detailed Qatar’s foreign policy priorities, leading some observers to believe that the Gulf state is reconsidering its support for the Syrian opposition, while warming to the regime. Under the former emir, Qatar had emerged as a staunch backer of Syrian rebels, providing them with military and financial support.
Regarding the issue of the kidnapped bishops, the Qatari emir expressed readiness to help and asked the relevant Qatari security forces to coordinate with Lebanese agencies to find a solution to the case.
Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were abducted in April by armed men near the Turkish border.
Separately, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai reiterated promises made to him by Qatar to help resolve the case of the kidnapped bishops.
“We thank Qatar for their help in the release of the Azaz hostages and its promise to uncover the fate of the kidnapped bishops,” he said, speaking from Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport after returning from an official visit to Qatar.
Rai said that Tamim informed him Qatari officials had already started working to determine the location of the bishops. “The problem is that no one knows where the kidnapped bishops are,” Rai said.
During talks with Rai in Doha Wednesday, the Qatari emir had promised to help in securing the release of the bishops, but concrete steps in the case have yet to be taken.