Lebanese Speaker Nabih Berri condemned the kidnapping of two Turkish pilots in Beirut, but at the same time criticized the way Turkey was handling the issue of the detention of Lebanese Shiite pilgrims by Syrian rebels in Aleppo.
“The kidnapping of the Turkish pilots is rejected and condemned, regardless of [my] opinion on the way Turkey is dealing with the issue of Lebanese abductees in Syria,” Berri said in remarks published Monday by As-Safir newspaper.
“The only criterion that defines our stance regarding the pilots’ kidnapping is that they are innocent, and should not have been harmed,” he added.
He is referring to the 11 Shiite pilgrims that were kidnapped in Syria in May 2012 while on their way from Iran to Lebanon. Turkey was involved in trying to help the Lebanese government in its negotiation to free the pilgrims from the Syrian rebels who kidnapped them in an Aleppo province.
Turkey which had nothing to do with the kidnapping , was accused by the relatives of the hostages of not doing enough to free the pilgrims and for this reason they arranged during the past several months several rallies, sit-ins and protests against Turkish Airlines and the Turkish embassy in Beirut to pressure the Turkish government to do more.
It appeared from the statement by the group that took responsibility for the kidnaping of the pilots that it is connected to the relatives of Shiite pilgrims still being held in Syria.
One of the spokespersons for the Shiite pilgrims’ relatives , Sheikh Abbas Zgheib who is a also a member of the Highest Shiite council said the relatives of the kidnapped pilgrims support the abduction of the pilots.
“The Shiite pilgrims’ relatives support the kidnapping, especially if it aims at putting an end to the detention of their relatives in Syria.” He said .
March 14 MP Jean Ogassapian pointed fingers at Berri’s ally Hezbollah on Saturday and said the abduction of the Turkish Airlines pilots in Beirut bore the hallmarks of the militant Shiite group.