BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati asked Turkey Wednesday to wield pressure on the Syrian kidnappers to release the nine remaining Lebanese hostages as Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the case as “sensitive.”
“We spoke about a very important issue to us and that is the kidnapped Lebanese ... I asked the prime minister that Turkey exert pressure on the abductors to release the kidnapped,” Mikati told reporters at a news conference in Ankara after meeting Erdogan.
He said the meetings between the Lebanese and the Turkish delegations were excellent.
Erdogan said the case of the nine pilgrims who were kidnapped by Syrian rebels on May 22 was a sensitive matter and that his country is trying to reach a solution to it.
“I told the prime minister that the issue is sensitive and that we are exerting efforts with our concerned brothers and attempting to communicate to secure the release of the Lebanese,” Erdogan said.
The Turkish official added that Ankara has always supported Lebanon.
Mikati, who headed to Turkey earlier Wednesday, was accompanied by an official Lebanese delegation, including Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, Public Works and Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi and Economy Minister Nicolas Nahhas.
Eleven Lebanese pilgrims were taken captive by rebels on May 22 in Syria’s Aleppo district, shortly after crossing from Turkey while on their way back to Lebanon from Iran, where they had been on a pilgrimage.
Two of the hostages were released in August and September.
Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon Inan Ozyildiz said Monday that he had no new information on the issue of the hostages, but that Erdogan would brief Mikati about the latest developments.
He stressed that his country is exerting efforts to help release the Lebanese kidnapped and called on other countries to contribute to these efforts.
Relatives of the hostages have repeatedly called on Turkey and other states to help secure the release of their loved ones.
Late last year, the families also threatened to target Turkish interests in Lebanon in order to pressure the release of the pilgrims.
Turkey has said that although it has an influence over rebels it is not the country to be blamed for the kidnappings.