The Daily Star – A Qatari-sponsored mediator negotiating the release of 26 Lebanese servicemen held by Islamist militants on the Syria border has reportedly left the country upset at the Lebanese government.
Local newspaper Al-Akhbar said Friday that Ahmad al-Khatib headed back to Doha late Thursday after having spent a long day at the General Security, mediating contacts with Sheikh Mustafa Hujeiri and militant commanders in Qalamoun in an attempt to revive negotiations.
It said Khatib left upset because the Lebanese government failed to respond to the captors’ list of names seeking to be swapped for the Lebanese hostages.
Al-Joumhouria newspaper, in turn, said Khatib held marathon talks with head of the General Security, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim. It said Maj. Gen. Mohammad Kheir of the Higher Relief Council also attended part of the meeting.
Ibrahim had been tasked by the government to follow up on the hostage crisis following his successful meditations that led to the release of nine Lebanese pilgrims who were held by Syrian rebels in northern Syria for 16 months and the Maaloula nuns who were held captive for three months.
Last month, the Nusra Front suggested three proposals that could ultimately resolve the case: the release of 10 detainees in Lebanese prisons for each captive; the release of seven Lebanese and 30 women held in Syrian prisons for each captive; or the release of five Lebanese and 50 female detainees in Syrian prisons in exchange for the release of each hostage.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam will chair a crisis cell meeting later Friday to discuss the outcome of Khatib’s visit.
Media reports said the cell was likely to take a decision to clear the protest campsite that had been set up by the hostage families outside the Grand Serail in Downtown Beirut.
The return of the Qatar-appointed mediator to Lebanon Thursday helped turn the opinion of the families of captured servicemen, with some expressing hope for the first time, citing confidential information, that they might be released before the New Year.
A source in direct contact with the militants told The Daily Star that Khatib arrived in Arsal Thursday evening.
“Information was also given to us that General Security head [Maj. Gen.] Abbas Ibrahim either traveled to Syria already or will today,” the acting spokesperson for the families added.
“We fully trust Ibrahim and he would not have gone to Syria if the expected result wasn’t positive,” Hussein Youssef, father of ISIS captive Mohammad Youssef told The Daily Star.