BEIRUT: Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim said in remarks published Saturday that Russia has a leading role in the ongoing negotiations to release two bishops kidnapped in Syria last year, adding that his information indicates the two prelates are still alive.
Speaking to Al-Joumhouria, Ibrahim also said that a “high-ranking security and diplomatic official” would arrive in Beirut Saturday to discuss recent developments in the case.
“The current effective party [in the negotiations] is Russia,” Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s General Security, told the local daily.
“On the other hand, Qatar has ties with the opposition and we negotiate with the regime because we [still] have relations with the regime and so we agreed to unite our efforts ... to collect information and pursue the case,” he added.
Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were abducted in April 2013 by gunmen while en route to the northern Syrian city from the Turkish border.
Ibrahim, who has been tasked to follow up on the case of the bishops, said the kidnappers had not yet listed their demands.
“Qatar has voiced readiness to pay the cost of any resolution [to the case], regardless of the amount, but the problem is that the kidnappers have not yet asked for a ransom or specified their demands,” the Lebanese official said.
He also noted that he was in contact with U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Ibrahimi who Ibrahim said was also following up on the case.
Concerning conflicting reports on the fate of the bishops, Ibrahim said: “[My] information is that they are still alive.”
He also said that he had no information that two were separated at some stage or that one of the prelates had been killed as reports last year said.
Ibrahim also said the fact that the case of the two bishops was shrouded in mystery was “confusing.”
“Although we have nothing tangible evidence the information we have is encouraging,” he added.
Ibrahim also said that the case of the 13 nuns seized in the Syrian Christian town of Maaloula late last year was on the right path.
“The case of the nuns will reach a satisfactory result,” he said.