Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said Monday the two pilots kidnapped in Lebanon earlier this month are alive, and that it knows roughly where they are.
The Turkish Airlines pilots were kidnapped on Aug. 9 when gunmen ambushed a bus carrying the national airliner’s crew from Beirut airport to a hotel in the city. “Their whereabouts are more or less known. We know that they are alive, in peace and comfort,” Arınç told reporters after a cabinet meeting. “I hope we will reach them soon,” he added.
A previously unknown group calling itself Zuwwar Imam al-Rida has claimed the kidnapping, demanding Turkey use its influence with Syria’s rebels to secure the release of nine Lebanese Shiites kidnapped in Syria in May 2012. Lebanese authorities have arrested three suspects and charged them in connection with the abduction. The pilots were kidnapped in a majority Shiite area of Beirut, controlled mainly by the Lebanese movement Hezbollah, a close ally of President Bashar al-Assad. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has denied any involvement in the kidnapping'Steady foreign policy' on Syria and Egypt
The Turkish government's foreign policy has been steady
since developments in both Syria and Egypt began and its stance is appreciated, Arınç said, following this week's Cabinet meeting
on Aug. 19.
For both Syria and Egypt, [we have] decided that the foreign
policy followed by Turkey since the beginning has been consistent," Arınç
said. "It is obvious that Turkey is following a steady and intimate policy
against the incidents that occured after the coup in Egypt, and Turkey's stance
is appreciated. This policy will continue."
Arınç also added that it was “out of the question” for
Turkish Ambassador to Egypt Hüseyin Avni Botsalı to return to Egypt soon.
Botsalı was called back to Ankara for consultations
following the Egyptian security forces’ brutal recent intervention against
protesters. He also attended Cabinet meeting, at which he provided
information about the latest incidents in Egypt for two hours.
Arınç also took the opportunity to comment on Organization
of the Islamic Conference (OIC) chief Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, saying that more
was expected from him to announce to the world what was happening in Egypt.
Senior Turkish government officials, including Deputy Prime
Minister Bekir Bozdağ, have recently taken aim at İhsanoğlu, over the
organization’s perceived inaction following the Egyptian army’s heavy crackdown
on Muslim Brotherhood protesters. Bozdağ called on the OIC chief to resign for
An additional Agence France-Presse story was used in this report.