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Lebanon News

Bassil seeks Turkey's help to free kidnapped Orthodox bishops

File - Caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil speaks during a press conference in Beirut, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil Thursday urged his Turkish counterpart to use his influence to help secure the release of the kidnapped bishops in Syria and Lebanese cameraman Samir Kassab.

Bassil's request was made during a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on the sidelines of the four-day ministerial conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in Algeria, which began May 26, Tayyar website said.

The website, a mouthpiece for the Free Patriotic Movement, said Davutoglu promised to multiply efforts for the safe return of the hostages.

Two Orthodox bishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, were kidnapped in April last year, reportedly near the rebel-held town of Kafr Dael.

No group has claimed responsibility for their kidnapping, but sources close to the Greek Orthodox Church and the Syrian authorities have claimed the kidnappers were "Chechen jihadists."

Sky News Arabia cameraman Samir Kassab disappeared in Syria last October.

Earlier Thursday, Bassil warned of the potential risks to Lebanon’s existence from the growing number of Syrian refugees.

“I hope we can gather all our energies to serve Lebanon, its continuity and its message,” Bassil told a banquet given in his honor by Lebanon’s Ambassador to Algeria Ghassan al-Moallem.

“It’s sad that [Lebanon] today faces a new threat of Syrian refugees, which is unusual since we currently have 275,000 Syrian students in Lebanese schools, and the number is expected to up by another 400,000 the next year,” he said, while pointing out that Syrian refugees make up nearly half Lebanon’s population, which is estimated at around 4 million.

 

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