No plans to swap Turkish journalists for Syrian generals - Turkish Foreign ministry
As an anxious public awaits the release of two Turkish journalists captured in Syria last week, the Foreign Ministry has denied it has any plans to hand over a number of recently defected Syrian generals in order to secure the journalists' freedom, Today's Zaman reported.
Turkish journalists Adem Özköse and Hamit Coşkun were reportedly captured by pro-regime Shabiha militiamen and handed over to Syrian intelligence forces near the opposition stronghold of Ildib on March 12. News of the two journalists' capture prompted assurances by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on March 14 that the Foreign Ministry was "expending intense efforts to ensure that our journalists return home safely." Although a story by the Hürriyet daily last week reported that the government is pondering swapping six defecting brigadier-generals who recently crossed the border into Turkey for the journalists, the Foreign Ministry told Today's Zaman on Sunday this is false. Instead, diplomatic sources within the ministry told Today's Zaman that ministry officials and their Syrian counterparts are discussing the matter but have not come to an agreement. Last Thursday, the Anatolia news agency suggested that Turkey may have an unlikely ally in its search for Özköse and Coşkun with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who reportedly told Davutoğlu in a phone conversation that Iran would help ensure the journalists' release. Davutoğlu meanwhile told Salehi that Syria, a close regional ally of Iran, should "avoid making a mistake."