The comments on Qatar’s role in releasing Lebanese hostages in Syria are the first to be made by the security official, according to Qatari media.
Doha played a substantial role in releasing Lebanese nationals abducted in Syria back in 2013, Lebanon’s Major General Abbas Ibrahim told local Al Sharq.
The Director General of Lebanese General Security recalled the Azaz conflict nearly ten years ago, when some 11 Lebanese citizens were held hostages in the northern Syrian town.
“I remember in the Azaz case that a group of Lebanese were on a visit to Iraq. On their way back to Lebanon by land, they were abducted in the Azaz region in northern Syria in 2013, and the families of the kidnapped came to me asking me to intervene to solve this issue,” he said in an interview with Qatar-based Al-Sharq newspaper during a visit to Doha.
“I started communicating with the Qatari security services and visited Doha and obtained supreme instructions to make the required efforts to end this issue, and accordingly I, the then (Qatari) Minister of Foreign Affairs Khaled Al-Attiyah and a Qatari security official moved to Istanbul, and we stayed there to arrange the necessary contacts, and the mediation efforts were a success,” he detailed.
The Lebanese official pointed to the “the rich history of joint mediation with Qatar and various complex cases that have been resolved, starting from the Azaz cases to the Maaloula nuns, and many other cases.”
The comments were made following a meeting between the Lebanese official and Qatar’s Energy Minister Saad bin Sherida Al-Kaabi in Doha, where the two discussed cooperation in the field of oil and gas and the possibility of supplying Lebanon with Qatari gas as the Republic struggles with a severe economic and electricity crisis.
Qatar’s mediating role
Doha has played an influential mediating role in Lebanon throughout the years, particularly with various hostage situations during the ten-year Syrian conflict.
In March 2014, Doha was at the forefront of mediation efforts following the kidnapping of a group of Lebanese nuns by militants in the historic Syria town of Maaloula.
Abbas Ibrahim affirmed that “since then, the relationship with Qatari officials has strengthened, and the process of joint cases and successful mediation has been launched, including the file of the Maaloula Sisters, and many other files that have been solved with Qatari support.”
In another hostage incident in 2014, a Qatari delegation mediated to release security personnel held in Syria as part of the Gulf state’s strategy to play a more influential role in the region.
Some 19 Lebanese soldiers and 20 policemen were kidnapped by the Islamic State militant group and the Al-Qaeda backed Al Nusra Front when the groups stormed Arsal.
Doha also played a major mediation role in facilitating the release of nine Lebanese pilgrims in October 2013 who were held for more than a year in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.