Sailors captured by pirates return home

Sailors captured by pirates return home

ISTANBUL - Anatolia News Agency
Sailors captured by pirates return home

The sailors were greeted by their families at the airport. Yakup Öztürk, one of the captured sailors meets his wife Aysel Öztürk, whom he hasn’t seen in 16 months. AA photo

Three Turkish and 15 Georgian sailors who were captured by Somali pirates in September 2010 were welcomed to Istanbul Jan. 13 by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

“Our brothers were today brought to Turkey. I thank Saakashvili. The solidarity that has come about during this special incident will go down in history. I wish a speedy recovery to those families that went through this agonizing experience,” Erdoğan said during a press meeting at Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport.

Erdoğan and Saakashvili welcomed the Turkish and Georgian crew who arrived in Turkey at around 10:10 a.m. The two statesmen then moved to the State Guest House to hold talks.

“There is a very different sort of relationship between Georgia and Turkey both in the field of politics and commerce. No problems are left standing between us,” Erdoğan said at the airport.

“Turkey is a very important state that has turned into a regional leader playing a emphatic role in the process. Turkey is playing a very important part in achieving peace,” Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said in Turkish.

After being freed, the sailors were brought to Kenya onboard a ship; they were then flown to Atatürk International Airport aboard a Georgian Air Zena plane.

The sailors were greeted by their families at the airport; one Turkish sailor, Mustafa Arıcıoğlu, met his 13-month-old son, Arda, for the first time. A Georgian government delegation dispatched to Somalia upon the order of Saakashvili had held talks for several days with the pirates to secure the release of the captive sailors.

The pirates had demanded between $3 million and 15 million from the shipping company for the crew’s release, but company officials had refused to pay, Georgian press had earlier reported.

The three Turkish sailors, along with their 15 Georgian colleagues, were kidnapped Sept. 8, 2010, when Somali pirates boarded their Greek-owned merchant ship that was flying a Maltese flag in the Gulf of Aden.