Lebanese security chief visited Syria in efforts to free US captive

Lebanese Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim visited Damascus after a trip to Washington as part of efforts to free US citizen Austin Tice. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 14 November 2020

Lebanese security chief visited Syria in efforts to free US captive

  • US citizen Austin Tice is thought to be held in Syria
  • The trip to Damascus came after he visited Washington where he met with the national security adviser

AMMAN: Lebanese Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim visited Damascus after a trip to Washington as part of efforts to free US citizen Austin Tice, who is thought to be held in Syria, Lebanese broadcaster al Jadid reported on Saturday.
Ibrahim told al Jadid he went on a two-day visit to Damascus and was in regular contact with Tice's mother to tell her that he would continue to work on her son's "file".
"I won't stop working on this subject and I promised Tice's mother whom I met in Washington and am in daily touch with on the phone," he told the broadcaster.
US President Donald Trump has adopted the case of the freelance journalist and former US Marine officer who disappeared while reporting in Syria in 2012.
Abbas said the trip to Damascus came after he visited Washington last month where he met with national security adviser Robert O’Brien.
A Trump administration official on Oct.18 confirmed a newspaper report that a White House official travelled to Damascus earlier this year for secret meetings with the Syrian government seeking the release of Tice and another US citizen.
The trip was the first time such a high-level US official had met in Syria with the isolated government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in more than a decade.
Syria erupted into civil war nearly a decade ago after Assad in 2011 began a brutal crackdown on protesters calling for an end to his family’s rule. 


German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

Updated 16 min 21 sec ago

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

  • Germany insists it acted correctly in boarding a Turkish ship to enforce arms embargo of Libya
  • Turkey summoned European diplomats to complain at the operation

BERLIN: Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkey’s complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors acted correctly.
Sunday’s incident prompted Turkey to summon diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy and assert that the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A was subjected to an “illegal” search by personnel from the German frigate Hamburg. The German ship is part of the European Union’s Irini naval mission, which is enforcing an arms embargo against Libya.
German officials say that the order to board the ship came from Irini’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey protested while the team was on board. The search was then ended.
Turkey says the search was “unauthorized and conducted by force.”
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew’s actions.
“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr soldiers behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what is asked of them in the framework of the European Irini mandate.”
“That there is this debate with the Turkish side points to one of the fundamental problems of this European mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added, without elaborating. “But it is very important to me to say clearly here that there are no grounds for these accusations that are now being made against the soldiers.”
This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally enforcing an arms blockade against Libya.
In June, NATO launched an investigation over an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, after France said one of its frigates was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.
Turkey supports a UN-backed government in Tripoli against rival forces based in the country’s east. It has complained that the EU naval operation focuses its efforts too much on the Tripoli administration and turns a blind eye to weapons sent to the eastern-based forces.
In Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Irini was “flawed from the onset.”
“It is not based on firm international legal foundations,” Akar said. He renewed Turkey’s criticism of the German ship’s actions.
“The incident was against international laws and practices. It was wrong,” he said.
Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that “Turkey is still an important partner for us in NATO.” Turkey being outside the military alliance would make the situation even more difficult, she argued, and Turkish soldiers are “absolutely reliable partners” in NATO missions.
But she conceded that Turkey poses “a big challenge” because of how its domestic politics have developed and because it has its “own agenda, which is difficult to reconcile with European questions in particular.”