Turkey requested Iran’s help to release abducted pilots


turkish iran FMTurkey has requested Iran’s help in securing the release of Turkish pilots that were kidnapped in Lebanon, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Aug. 13.

“Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu asked for help from his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, in a phone conversation to find the kidnapped pilots,” Abbas Araghchi said during a news conference in Tehran. Salehi expressed his regret about the pilots and his wishes that they would be freed soon.

Davutoğlu, in turn, thanked Salehi and said Iran’s efforts to contribute to the release of the pilots would be welcomed.

Araghchi also condemned the kidnapping and said Iran would not refrain from helping Turkey if it could, citing the release of 48 Iranians who were kidnapped in Syria in 2012. Syrian rebels released 48 Iranian hostages as part of a prisoner swap in Damascus. In return for the hostages Syria released 2,130 rebel prisoners. The deal was reportedly brokered by Turkey and Qatar.

11 Shiite pilgrims 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 two Turkish 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 Iran’s ally Hezbollah on Saturday and said the abduction of the Turkish Airlines pilots in Beirut bore the hallmarks of the militant Shiite group.

Similarly Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said in remarks published on Monday that the kidnapping of the two Turkish pilots took place inside Hezbollah’s statelet and the militant group was involved in the kidnapping of Turkish pilots in Beirut in one way or another.

“Hezbollah is involved in one way or another in the kidnapping which took place inside the statelet of Hezbollah who would never miss any detail related to security,” Geagea told As-Safir newspaper.

Geagea also added that the kidnapping must have been conducted by an organized armed group, in reference to Hezbollah.

“The kidnapping was pre-planned and executed meticulously [by] an organized armed group,” Geagea said.

Early on Friday, 6 gunmen gunmen reportedly intercepted a bus , boarded it and kidnapped Turkish Airlines Pilot Murat Akpinar and his co-pilot Murat Agca ( who were on their way to their hotel in Beirut) at the Cocodi Bridge on Beirut’s airport road, less than a kilometer from Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport and drove off in in a silver BMW X3 and a black KIA Picanto.

An unknown group that goes by the name of “Visitors ( Zouwar) of Imam al-Rida ” claimed responsibility for the kidnapping .Lebanon’s National News Agency NNA said on Friday that the this group issued a statement saying that the (Turkish ) pilots “will only be released when the Lebanese hostages in Syria return to Lebanon.

Update: Lebanon’s Future Movement bloc accused Hezbollah of knowing where the abducted Turkish pilots are being held.

“Hezbollah might be the party that is most aware of the Turkish pilots’ location,” MP Kazem el-Kheir read in a statement on behalf of the bloc following the bloc’s Tuesday meeting.

The bloc underscored the fact that “the kidnapping took place in Hezbollah’s stronghold.”

Kheir also said that “the kidnapping of the two Turkish pilots endangers both Lebanon’s security and economy.”

The Future bloc also called for the release of the Lebanese hostages in Syria’s Aazaz.