Ankara denies abducted bishops are held in Turkey

31/10/13

BEIRUT: The Turkish Foreign Ministry  denied reports that two  bishops kidnapped in Syria  were being held in Turkish territories,  according to a statement issued Wednesday.

Referring to earlier reports circulated on Aug. 12 alleging the bishops were  in Turkey, the statement blamed the Syrian government for spreading false  information.

“It has been observed that similar allegations are now being repeated by  Syrian officials, in the context of their contacts with the Russian Federation,” the statement said. “These accusations  are completely baseless and untrue.”

Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi  and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim  were abducted in April by armed  men while en route to the northern Syrian city from the Turkish border. They  were reportedly on their way to negotiate the release of three priests who are  also missing.

Reacting to reports that the kidnappers had been identified and provided  evidence that at least one of the two bishops was alive, Lebanese Bishop Boulos Sayyah  reiterated that there had been no  indication pointing to their imminent release.

“There are no negotiations. If there were negotiations there would have been  the beginnings of a resolution,” Sayyah told The Daily Star. “This is what is  worrying, that there is nothing.”

Sayyah added that so far it was not known whether the bishops were alive or  who kidnapped them.

“The emir of Qatar  promised us explicitly to do his utmost to  try and find who kidnapped them, where they are and what their situation is, and  if they have demands,” Sayyah said, adding that the Qataris had not yet followed  up on their vows.

Sayyah also said that the Greek and Syrian Orthodox churches  are following up on the issue.  “What we find difficult to understand is that they [the bishops] have been  kidnapped by one or more factions fighting the [Syrian] government. Somebody  must be feeding these people money, arms and support of all sorts. We don’t  understand how the states that are arming these people cannot step in and  [pressure] them [to release the bishops].”

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