Turkey's ambassador in Beirut, Süleyman İnan Özyıldız, rejected on Friday criticism leveled against Turkey over the kidnapped Lebanese pilgrims in Syria, saying that the attacks on Turkey are “unfair.”
Özyıldız's remarks came a day after Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah called on the Lebanese government to dispatch a representative to Turkey to open direct negotiations with the kidnappers of Lebanese hostages held in Syria.
“Right now we are speaking with the Turks, and this will not yield the same results,” said the Hezbollah leader in a televised speech on Thursday.
Özyıldız told the state-run Anatolia news agency in an interview that Lebanese authorities are aware of Turkey's efforts to secure the release of kidnapped pilgrims, but families of the kidnapped Lebanese think Ankara is not doing what it could do.
“We are doing our best,” the ambassador said, adding that Lebanese Interior Ministry officials and security authorities have no doubts about Turkey's cooperation in this respect.
Syrian anti-regime forces abducted 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims in May. Two of them have been later released. From time to time, several Lebanese leaders have travelled to Ankara to ask the Turkish authorities to intervene with the captors.
Nasrallah said that the way the Lebanese government has dealt with the case hasn't been satisfactory. “But now is the time to directly negotiate with the kidnappers and designate a Lebanese official to do so,” added Nasrallah.
In a brief statement following Nasrallah's speech and before taking part in a cabinet meeting, Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said the government was in fact negotiating directly with the Syrian abductors.
The minister also reiterated his request for Turkey to help in the release of the remaining nine hostages, the Lebanese Daily Star reported. “We hope the Turks will help Lebanon [free the hostages], just as Lebanon helped it [Ankara] secure the release of the kidnapped Turkish citizens on Lebanese soil," Charbel said in remarks to a local radio station.
Two Turkish nationals were kidnapped in Lebanon months after the abduction of the Lebanese men in Syria. They were later released.
This week, families of the kidnapped Lebanese pilgrims staged a protest outside the office of Turkish Airlines, demanding Turkey help release their relatives.
Özyıldız said Lebanese authorities have no negative reaction against Turkey, but families of the pilgrims claim that Turkey has the capability to secure the release of their relatives but fails to act.
Recalling that the relatives of the pilgrims also protested in front of the Turkish Embassy in Beirut, Özyıldız said the Embassy is taking the necessary security measures with the full cooperation of Lebanese authorities.
The ambassador claimed that Turkish authorities have been working tooth and nail for six months for the release of the kidnapped pilgrims and that Ankara's efforts continue in this regard.
The Turkish envoy added that embassy officials are regularly briefing the families of the kidnapped people, but he said they are making threatening statements, such as vowing to kidnap Turkish citizens.