NEWS

How Troops Freed

Minister for Foreign Affairs Ratu Inoke Kubuabola yesterday disclosed Qatar promised that the 45 Fijian UN peacekeepers would be freed 24 hours after he met his counterpart. “He told me
15 Sep 2014 14:54
How Troops Freed
Hundreds of Hindu devotee gathered at My Suva Park in Suva to Mark the final ritual of Ganesh Utsav (Lord Ganesha prayer) on September 12, 2019. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Ratu Inoke Kubuabola yesterday disclosed Qatar promised that the 45 Fijian UN peacekeepers would be freed 24 hours after he met his counterpart.

“He told me I will have good news within 24 hours and sure it was,” Ratu Inoke said.

Ratu Inoke quietly left the election campaign trail and flew to Qatar, a Middle East ally of Fiji, to seek help as negotiations between the United Nations team and the captors, Syrian rebels, Nusra Front, dragged on.

Qatar reportedly paid a ransom for the release of 45 Fijian Golan Heights peacekeepers, media reports from the Middle-East now say.

Ratu Inoke, who saw the media reports yesterday, said: “Qatar has paid ransom in the past in the release of 13 nuns and also for the release of US journalist Peter Curtis.”

One report claimed Qatar paid $20 million, another quoted $1m for each peacekeeper.

Ratu Inoke said he was told by the Qatar Foreign Affairs Minister in their meeting last Wednesday that they “will spare no efforts in making sure that your soldiers are released safely.

“Their intention and motivation for assisting is on humanitarian basis according to the Foreign Affairs Minister,” Ratu Inoke said.

Ratu Inoke’s trip to Qatar vindicated his efforts to establish diplomatic relations with the Gulf States. Critics had questioned the benefits of his efforts. The close ties with Qatar paid off. Qatar has considerable influence in Syria.

Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported Qatar had helped following “the request of the government of Fiji”.

“The efforts of the State of Qatar led to the successful release of the Fijian soldiers… who had been held for two weeks,” the Gulf emirate said in a statement.

Qatar said it had acted on “humanitarian” grounds, and that it did not hesitate to mobilise all its means and diplomatic channels to save lives”.

The newspaper further reported that Qatar had paid the Syrian rebels $1m for the release of each soldier.

However, an official confirmation regarding this information has yet to be obtained.

Syria’s three-year civil war reached the frontier with Israeli-controlled territory last month when rebel fighters overran a crossing point in the line that had separated Israelis from Syrians in the Golan Heights since a 1973 war.

The fighters then turned on the UN blue helmets from a peacekeeping force that has patrolled the ceasefire line.

After the Fijians were captured, more than 70 Filipinos spent two days besieged at two locations before reaching safety.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj




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