BEIRUT: Turkey can help secure the release of the Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped last year in Syria, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said Sunday.
“ Turkey can play a major role in the [hostages] release although it is not the abductor. We can resolve the case by exerting Turkish or Qatari pressures [against the kidnappers],” Charbel told the voice of Lebanon radio station.
The eleven hostages were captured by Syrian rebels in Aleppo last May on their way back from a religious pilgrimage in Iran. Two pilgrims were released last year.
The relatives of the pilgrims have been targeting Turkish interests in Lebanon for over two weeks now, in a bid to exert pressure on who they feel can secure the release of their loved ones.
Sheikh Abbas Zogheib, who has been tasked by the Higher Islamic Shiite Council to follow up the case, met with the Iranian ambassador in Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi Saturday and called on Iran tostep-up efforts to free the nine hostages.
“We briefed the Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon on our endeavors to pressure the release of the hostages and urged him to call on his country to resolve the case,” Zogheib said.
The sheikh quoted the Iranian envoy as saying his country has already been exerting efforts to free the pilgrims ever since they were abducted because “Iran’s policy is based on defending those who are oppressed.”
Earlier on Saturday, the relatives of the hostages staged a sit-in near the Turkish airlines offices in the Azarieh building in Downtown Beirut.
The families argue that Turkey, a major backer of the Syrian Opposition, can help in securing the release of their loved ones.
For its part, Turkey has repeatedly said that it is not responsible for the abduction and that it is trying to help resolve the case.