Qatar’s mediator has received oral pledges from the jihadists who have taken Lebanese soldiers and policemen captive that they would not kill more abductees, al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Monday.
The daily said that the envoy, who is a Syrian and who has not been identified yet, met over the weekend with Lebanese officials and the representatives of the kidnappers of the troops.
Last month, the Lebanese army fought fierce battles in the northeastern border town of Arsal with al-Nusra and Islamic State group jihadists who streamed in from Syria.
The militants withdrew after a truce, but took with them the hostages, three of whom were later executed.
Lebanese officials have repeatedly said that they would not negotiate with he jihadists unless they receive written pledges that they would not harm more captives.
Al-Akhbar quoted informed officials as saying that “Qatar’s envoy reached an important breakthrough in the negotiations after receiving an oral pledge from the kidnappers that they would not execute more soldiers.”
The officials said the mediation with al-Nusra Front is easier because Qatar has an influence on the group. But the IS leadership in the Syrian al-Qalamun region and the outskirts of Arsal needs a decision from the the group’s general command over every step it takes.
Speaking before the U.N. General Assembly, Prime Minister Tammam Salam said Friday that Lebanon is determined not to give in to “pressure and blackmail” by the Islamic extremists.
The jihadists have made various demands in exchange for the soldiers’ release, including the release of Islamist prisoners in Roumieh.
“We will never give in to such pressure, and will remain focused on the release of our soldiers, while preserving our country,” Salam said.
But he told pan-Arab daily al-Hayat on Sunday that he supports holding negotiations with the captors to release the hostages.
Lebanon has long been split over the war in neighboring Syria, with Sunnis supporting the Sunni-led rebellion against President Bashar Assad and Shiites supporting his government, fearing the rise of extremists among the rebels’ ranks.
Hizbullah has infuriated many Sunnis by sending thousands of fighters to battle alongside Assad’s troops.