BEIRUT: Head of General Security Brig. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim said Sunday that negotiations for the release of Lebanese hostages in Syria are moving slowly, while authorities are still trying to deal with the abduction of Turkish pilots in the country as a separate issue despite the kidnappers’ demands.
“It's been a year and four months since the abduction and I can say that the case is not frozen but progress is very slow due to regional circumstances surrounding it,” Ibrahim told a local radio station.
“All the information indicates that they are in good condition,” he said.
In May of last year, eleven Shiite Lebanese were taken hostage in the Aleppo district of Azaz by a Syrian rebel group as they traveled through the country. Two have been released so far.
Two Turkish Airlines pilots were kidnapped on their way to a hotel from Beirut airport in August. An unknown group claimed responsibility for the abduction, demanding in exchange for the pilots the release of nine Lebanese held hostage in Syria.
Relatives of the Lebanese argue that Turkey has leverage to secure the release of their loved ones given their strong support to the Syrian opposition and the proximity of Azaz to Turkey’s border.
“[Caretaker] Interior Minister Marwan Charbel had called for the separation of the case of the kidnapped Turks and the Lebanese in Syria and we are working on the cases in parallel but not as interconnected,” Ibrahim said.
“The Lebanese state is working hard with all its agencies and in coordination with each other to secure the release because they were kidnapped on Lebanese soil and it's our duty to free them,” he said about the Turks.
Ibrahim also commented on recent travel advisories by several countries against Lebanon, saying General Security has designed an emergency plan to accommodate changes in air traffic.
“Countries did not cancel flights but rearranged them to maintain flexibility in dealing with passenger traffic from and to Lebanon,” Ibrahim added.