Lebanese pilgrims in good health: Turkey
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman (L) was greeted by President Abdullah Gül.
Turkey has informed the president of Lebanon that 11 Lebanese pilgrims who were abducted in Syria by rebels in May are alive and in good health, a Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Meeting with President Abdullah Gül during a one-day working visit to Turkey yesterday, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman asked Turkish officials to continue Turkey’s efforts for the release of the Shiite pilgrims.
Suleiman said the abductees’ families wanted to secure the release of their relatives before Ramadan, according to the diplomat.
Gül told the Lebanese president that Ankara was doing its best recover the pilgrims and would continue its efforts. Gül expressed appreciation of the prudent and restrained approach of Lebanese leaders to the incident, the source added. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Intelligence Chief Hakan Fidan also participated in the meeting.
Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon İnan Özyıldız met with the families of the Lebanese hostages on July 11.
The pilgrims were being held by “a splinter group of the armed Syrian opposition,” according to a statement by Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour in May.
The pilgrims had been kidnapped on their way back from Iran when their buses were intercepted in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo.
The rebel Free Syrian Army has denied it was responsible. The abduction sparked violent protests across Lebanon.
Lebanese media reported that Suleiman was scheduled to travel to Turkey in light of positive signals received by Lebanese officials about the case of the 11 Lebanese pilgrims.
Turkey called on the Syrian opposition to release the Shiite pilgrims in May, and Lebanese officials announced that the abducted people were on their way to Turkey to be released, but the deal could not be brokered for undeclared reasons.