09-02-2023 12:39 AM Jerusalem Timing

Turkey Denies Responsibility for Lebanese Pilgrims Abduction

Turkey Denies Responsibility for Lebanese Pilgrims Abduction

Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon Inan Ozyildiz wondered how his country could be responsible for the abduction of the Lebanese pilgrims in Syria

Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon Inan Ozyildiz wondered how his country could be responsible for the abduction of the Lebanese pilgrims in Syria, saying that Turkey does not even have an embassy or consulate in the neighboring country, As-Safir newspaper reported on Tuesday.Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon

He told the daily: “Our negotiations to release all the pilgrims failed because of the complexity of the case.” “What will Turkey gain in delaying their release? What is it seeking to achieve if its interests are being harmed?” he asked. “How could Turkey have kidnapped the pilgrims? Does it have control over Syrian territories?” he wondered.

“It cannot be responsible for the abductions that have been taking place and it only intervened in the case from a humanitarian approach and in return it was met with a second abduction of Turkish nationals in Lebanon in less than a year,” said Ozyildiz.

Commenting on the kidnapping of two Turkish pilots in Lebanon on Friday, the ambassador said: “The case is in the hands of Lebanon's security and political authorities.” He added that he is in contact with all security officials, including General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim, to follow up on the case.

Ozyildiz said however that Turkey's decision to advise its citizens against traveling to Lebanon is only a preliminary measure and further ones will be taken if any new development takes place in the case of the two pilots.

A Turkish pilot and co-pilot were kidnapped on Friday. Six gunmen intercepted a van carrying the Turkish Airlines employees from Rafik Hariri International Airport to a hotel in the Ain Mreisseh seafront at dawn Friday, kidnapping the two pilots - Murat Akpinar and Murat Agca - but leaving the four other crew members behind.

Mohammad Saleh, a relative of the pilgrims held in Aazaz, was arrested on Sunday in connection to the kidnapping.

Saleh is a Witness not Participant

kidnapped Lebanese familiesA widely-informed security source told As Safir: “He revealed the names of the individuals linked to the abduction.” He also said that the pilots were kidnapped in a hope to exchange them with the nine pilgrims.

Saleh's relatives denied to As Safir however that their son was linked to the case, saying that he only received messages of congratulations on his telephone when news of the abduction broke out.

Meanwhile, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told As Safir that Saleh is considered as a witness in the kidnapping and not a participant. His release from custody is in the hands of the General Prosecution, he added.

FM: Turkey Can Help Free Pilgrims 

Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said that Turkey was able to play a major role in helping free nine Lebanese hostages held by Syrian rebels since last year.

Mansour“Lebanese people ask: Is it possible that after over a year, Turkey, with all its influence, cannot make fruitful efforts? ... We deal with Turkey as a friendly state, we urge it to make efforts [to resolve the case], and we believe it can reach a positive outcome,” Mansour told The Daily Star in an interview at the Foreign Ministry in Beirut.

“I once told a Turkish security official in a meeting that no one believes Turkey can do nothing when it controls the situation in northern [Syria] and supports the opposition,” he said.

“He answered [by] saying: ‘The kidnappers are not under the control of the Syrian opposition.’ But this is an unconvincing answer,” Mansour added.