BEIRUT: Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said Saturday he is planning a visit to Qatar in the next few days for help in the release of the Lebanese who have been held in Syria for over seven months.
“I will head to Qatar Tuesday to seek help in the release of the Lebanese hostages in Syria,” Charbel told The Daily Star.
The minister said the visit was part of ongoing efforts to secure the release of the nine remaining pilgrims who are thought to be held in the Aleppo district of Azaz.
Eleven Lebanese were abducted in Syria on May 22 as they were making their way back to Lebanon from a pilgrimage in Iran. Two of the hostages were released last year.
Charbel said he was willing to head to any country that could help in ending the hostage crisis.
“We will go to Qatar now and we are planning visits to all countries that may play a role in the case even if these may be Iran or Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Negotiations involving Turkey, Qatar and the Islamic Republic helped secure Wednesday the release of 48 Iranians held by Syrian rebels in exchange for prisoners held by Syrian authorities.
Charbel said Saturday he would meet with top officials during his trip to discuss the role that Qatar could play in releasing the hostages.
The minister will be accompanied by the head of Lebanon’s General Security, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim.
Angry relatives of the hostages have repeatedly staged sit-ins in different parts of the country, urging Lebanon and other states put more efforts to secure the return of their loved ones.
They hold Turkey and Qatar responsible for releasing their kin, arguing that the two states hold sway over the rebels in Syria.
In late December, after threatening to target Turkish interest in the country, the families staged a protest outside Turkish Airlines’ office in Beirut, closing its door and preventing access to staff. They ended their demonstration after an appeal by Charbel.