Lebanon’s Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati linked the release of Lebanese hostages in Syria to the release of the Turkish pilots that were kidnapped in Lebanon , but Ankara urged Beirut not to link the two issues directly together.
He linked the releases during meetings that were held separately with Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon Inan Ozyildiz and caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel.
“The Lebanese government is carrying out all the appropriate measures to reveal the fate of the two Turkish pilots who were kidnapped on the airport road,” Mikati told Ozyildiz during their meeting at the Grand Serail, according to The Serail press office.
“[Mikati] stressed at the same time the importance of exerting extra efforts by the Turkish authorities to help secure the release of the Lebanese Shiite pilgrims held in Azaz, Syria .” Mikati was quoted as saying .
Charbel’s office reported that the Turkish ambassador conveyed to the caretaker interior minister his country’s wish not to link the issue of the Lebanese hostages with that of the kidnapped Turkish pilots.
Charbel reportedly agreed with Odyildiz that the two issues should be separated but urged the Turkish ambassador to continue with his efforts to win the release of the nine Lebanese hostages.
The Turkish pilots were kidnapped on August 9 by a group demanding that Turkey should use its influence with Syria’s rebels, who it backs, to secure the release of nine Lebanese Shiites kidnapped in Syria in May 2012.
A previously unknown group calling itself Zuwwar ( visitors of) Imam al-Rida claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.
It said Turkey was “directly responsible” for the nine Lebanese who went missing in Syria.
The families of the Lebanese pilgrims, who were returning from Iran when they were kidnapped, have called repeatedly for the release of their relatives.
They accuse Turkey of not doing enough to that end.
Turkey, which had nothing to do with the kidnapping has repeatedly said it was exerting efforts to free the Lebanese men.
The pilots were kidnapped in a majority Shiite area of Beirut, controlled mainly by the powerful Lebanese movement Hezbollah, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The whereabouts of the Turkish Airlines pilots has been established, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said, Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday.
“We have defined the pilots’ whereabouts and know that nothing threatens their lives”, Arinc said.