The two prime ministers met in İstanbul on Thursday evening on the sidelines of a meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations, a UN-backed platform that seeks to promote understanding between the Western and Muslim worlds. Mikati said the issue is a matter of urgency for Lebanon and asked Turkey to continue its efforts for the release of the Lebanese men, Anatolia news agency said.
The Lebanese men were taken hostage in northern Syria last week while they were returning from a visit to Shiite holy sites in Iran. Last Friday, Lebanese authorities said the men had been released and were due to return home via Turkey, but the story took a new turn a day later when Turkey said the hostages never crossed the border from Syria.
The kidnapping has raised fears of sectarian clashes in Lebanon between Shiite groups supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Sunni groups who are opposed to him.
Mikati also discussed the issue with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in İstanbul. In his meeting with Ban on Thursday, Mikati “stressed the need for the use of all resources and means to secure the release of the abducted Lebanese as soon as possible in view of the sensitivity of the matter and its repercussions on stability in Lebanon,” said a statement released by Mikati's media office according to Lebanon's The Daily Star newspaper.
On Thursday, Al-Jazeera aired a statement from a previously unknown Syrian rebel group that announced it was holding the Lebanese pilgrims hostage. The group, which calls itself Syrian Rebels in Aleppo, said the hostages are in good health. The statement included photographs said to be of the hostages and their passports.