BEIRUT: Lebanon has reportedly agreed to swap five Islamist prisoners for each captive serviceman held hostage by jihadi Islamists from Syria, as part of a settlement that also requires the release of female detainees from Syrian prisons, according to a report published Tuesday in Al-Mustaqbal newspaper.
The paper quoted unnamed “official sources” as saying that the government’s crisis cell had informed Qatari mediator Ahmad al-Khatib that they agreed to Nusra Front’s “third option” for releasing the 27 servicemen who have been held captive for over three months in the border region between Lebanon and Syria countries.
“This option stipulated to exchange each captive with five Islamist prisoners in Lebanon in addition to 50 detainees in Syria,” the sources said.
They said General Security chief Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, who is representing the Lebanese government in the negotiations, would head to Damascus later this week to sound out the Syrian regime’s willingness to cooperate to complete the swap deal.
The sources underlined Lebanese concerns about Damascus' willingness to release its own detainees in return for the freedom of the Lebanese soldiers and policemen who were seized by Nusra Front and ISIS during clashes in the border town of Arsal in early August.
However, the Syrian regime might be cooperative if the swap list included Hezbollah fighter, Imad Awwad, who is held by the Nusra Front, the sources added.
The list of Islamist prisoners requested by Nusra and ISIS varies between 40 to 50 names, including Syrians, Palestinians, Lebanese and nationals from Arab Gulf countries, whereas the list of detainees in Syrian prisons is still not completed, the sources said.