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News number: 9107135043

15:41 | 2013-01-12

Foriegn Policy

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Tehran Appreciates Doha, Ankara for Facilitating Release of Iranian Hostages

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian Foreign Ministry thanked Qatar and Turkey for facilitating the freedom of the 48 Iranian pilgrims who had been abducted by terrorists in Syria in August and were released after five months on Wednesday.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian thanked Turkey's humanitarian aid agency (IHH) and the attempts by Qatar's government for their effective role in freedom of the 48 Iranian pilgrims.

"With the help of God, announcement of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's peace initiative for bringing back stability to the Arab country, and also preparedness of the Syrian government for implementation of Assad's peace plan, including freedom of prisoners, we witnessed the return of the Syrian prisoners to their families," he added.

The Iranian diplomat noted that besides this attempt and advancement in Syria's security conditions, the all-out efforts by the Iranian Foreign Ministry as well as other concerned organizations in the country, the freedom of 48 Iranian pilgrims was materialized.

On August 4, armed insurgents in Syria kidnapped 48 Iranian pilgrims who were traveling on a bus from Damascus International Airport to the shrine of Hazrat Zainab (AS) on the outskirts of Damascus.

On Wednesday, a board member of the Turkish humanitarian aid agency IHH told Reuters that the Syrian government would free 2,130 prisoners on Wednesday in exchange for the release of 48 Iranians held by Syrian rebels.

"Most of the prisoners to be swapped are Syrian citizens in exchange for Iranians, and there are a few Turks as well," IHH board member Osman Atalay told Reuters.

He quoted IHH chief Bulent Yildirim, who was in Damascus to help coordinate the deal, as saying that the prisoner swap had already begun.

The freed hostages arrived in Iran on Thursday.