Two Turkish journalists who were detained while covering the Syrian uprising two months ago are expected to be released in a few days, one of their colleagues said Saturday.
Turgut Alp Boyraz, foreign editor at Milat, says the two telephoned their families on Saturday and that an Islamic aid group based in Turkey was involved in negotiations in Damascus for their release.
The two journalists, writer Adem Özköse of Turkey’s Milat newspaper and freelance cameraman Hamit Coşkun, had not been heard from since they were reported missing in early March.
“Hopefully, they will come in a few days. This is the first time we have heard from them [since March 10],” Boyraz said.
Meanwhile, Coşkun’s brother Mustafa Yahya Coşkun dismissed claims that the two journalists have already been released and will return to Turkey by plane on Saturday.
Writing on his Twitter account on Saturday evening, Mustafa Coşkun said they could only confirm that Özköse and Hamit Coşkun are safe and in good condition.
The newspaper last had contact with the pair when they called March 10 from the northern Syrian city of Idlib, a bastion of rebel support that was taken by the Syrian army a few days later.
“We hope they come back safe and sound,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said.
The Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH), a Turkish aid group, reportedly assisted in efforts to release the two journalists.
Turkish citizens are not required to secure visas to travel to Syria, reflecting an improvement in relations in the past decade, prior to the current unrest. But ties sharply deteriorated over the past year because of President Bashar al-Assad’s bloody crackdown on an uprising that began with civilian protests, but now threatens to turn into a civil war.
Turkey, which hosts about 24,000 Syrian refugees, has urged Assad to step down and has encouraged the Syrian opposition to unify and present a credible political alternative. Thousands of people, many of them civilian protesters, have died. Turkey had asked Syria to locate the two missing Turkish journalists and ensure their safe return, but information was scarce. Earlier on, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said they were being held by Syrian forces.