Despite several media reports about the freeing of the Lebanese soldiers by the al Qaeda linked al Nusra front negotiations appeared to have suffered setbacks on Sunday afternoon but according to General Security chief General Abbas Ibrahim the negotiations are still ongoing and have not collapsed yet
“New developments have prevented the completion of the prisoner swap deal today,” Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera television said
The TV network reported earlier that “the Qatari-sponsored swap deal” would take place “within hours.”
Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen television said al-Nusra “increased its demands” in the past few hours and that “the fate of the swap deal is not clear anymore.”
Al-Jadeed TV also said that al-Nusra, which is al-Qaida’s Syria franchise, “has started making crippling demands.”
The developments prompted Lebanese security forces to ask an aid convoy that had entered the northeastern border town of Arsal as part of the swap deal negotiations to return to Beirut.
A General Security delegation and a Qatari mediator also returned to Beirut, according to media reports.
OTV had reported that efforts have “intensified” to overcome the obstacles that are hindering the prisoner swap deal.
For its part al-Jadeed said negotiations between General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and al-Nusra “have entered the final moments which will decide the fate of the deal.”
The General Directorate of General Security meanwhile issued a statement saying all media reports that were circulated Sunday were “baseless, especially regarding the swap deal’s conditions.”
It also reiterated its call for media outlets to “deal with this humanitarian and national issue professionally and responsibly in order to complete the process and make it reach a happy ending.”
Earlier in the day, media reports said that the swap deal would take place between the al-Masyada and Wadi Hmeid areas on the outskirts of Arsal.
Here are the latest obstacles according to MTV
– The failure to secure the evacuation of a number of wounded people to Turkey.
– Al Nusra source said the Lebanese state has not honored its promise on supplying food aid to refugees in Arsal’s outskirts.But the Lebanese officials said they cannot fulfill al-Nusra’s demand of sending aid trucks to areas controlled by al-Nusra.
According to OTV Al Nusra is creating the obstacles and not the Lebanese state
Sky News said earlier that the 16 Lebanese soldiers would “arrive at any moment at the outskirts of Wadi Hmeid.”
On Friday, media reports said that the servicemen would be released soon in a prisoner swap with Islamist inmates in Lebanese jails.
Ibrahim stressed on Saturday that the ongoing negotiations are serious but stressed the necessity to keep the issue away from media speculation.
The families of the abducted servicemen urged media outlets on Sunday not to disclose any information on the deal to help it reach to fruition.
Earlier on Sunday, reports said that security measures were taken between the areas of Baalbek and al-Labweh, paving way for an imminent release of the servicemen.
Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) said that the army had closed Arsal’s Wadi Hmeid and al-Masyada border crossings, a probable location where the swap could take place.
Twenty military vehicles and General Security ambulances headed to Arsal during the day, Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said.
Al-Nusra sources had told al-Akhbar daily that the swap includes freeing inmates from Lebanese and Syrian prisons, and transporting some wounded people from al-Zabadani in Syria to Beirut’s airport and then to Turkey.
The troops were abducted during deadly clashes in August 2014 between the army and militants from al-Nusra and the Islamic State group in and around Arsal.
Nineteen troops were killed in the fighting as 35 soldiers and policemen were taken hostage. Al-Nusra later released seven security personnel who were in its custody.
The two groups later executed four servicemen and were threatening to kill more if Lebanese authorities do not fulfill their demands.
Update Syria behind the setback
Kuwaiti newspaper Al Anbaa reported that the Syrian regime was behind the failure to release the Lebanese servicemen
According to the report a dispute over the names of Nusra prisoners to be released from Syrian jails resulted in the breakdown of the negotiations.
The Qatar team that is handling the negotiation continues to mediate their release and is coordinating its effort with Abbas
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