Mikati headed to Turkey


Lebanon Prime Minister Najib Mikati left for Turkey on Wednesday to follow up on the issue of the Lebanese Shiite pilgrims who were abducted in Aleppo province in Syria on May 22, National News Agency reported

“First… the visit aims at following with Turkish officials, on the issue of the Lebanese abductees, and to find out whether there are any developments related to this incident,” Mikati said before leaving Beirut.

“We hope that the efforts undertaken will contribute to the resolution of this humanitarian issue… and to the safe return of the pilgrims to Lebanon,” he added.

Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour and Interior Minister Marwan Charbel accompanied Mikati in his official visit to Turkey where he is also scheduled to discuss bilateral relations with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to the NNA.

The case of the Lebanese hostage in Syria is raising fears of renewed street battles in Beirut as Lebanon increasingly gets drawn into the swirling chaos next door. The Syrian crisis already has spilled across the border into Lebanon over the past three weeks, sparking deadly violence in a country that remains deeply divided over the 15-month-old uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The 11 Lebanese men were on their way back from a pilgrimage in Iran when gunmen intercepted their buses in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, according to the women on the pilgrimage who were allowed to go free and arrived in Lebanon hours later.

There are conflicting reports about the whereabouts of the kidnapped Lebanese pilgrims.

The pilgrims were supposed to have been freed on Friday May 25 and were scheduled to arrive at Beirut airport at 8 PM , aboard the private jet of former PM Saad Hariri but this never happened. The jet is reportedly still waiting to pick up the pilgrims at the airport in Turkey .

Al-Jadeed ( New ) TV reported that the kidnappers are demanding, before agreeing to a new round of talks, that Hezbollah condemn the Syrian regime.

Hezbollah is a staunch ally of the Syrian regime, where a predominantly Sunni uprising is trying to oust the Assad family dynasty.