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Negotiations to free Lebanese soldiers remain at impasse

The hostage takers have demanded the demilitarization of areas on the Lebanese-Syrian border and the release of prisoners, both of which have been met with significant opposition by the Lebanese political establishment.
Relatives of Lebanese soldiers, who were captured by Islamist militants in Arsal, protest demanding the release of the remaining soldiers and pressuring the government to act, as families block a road in Saifi village in Beirut December 6, 2014. Families of Lebanese soldiers held by militants blocked roads in Beirut and highways between major cities on Saturday, pressing the government to do more to free them. More than two dozen members of the Lebanese security forces are being held by Sunni Islamists. REU
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BEIRUT — It has been more than five months since the kidnapping of Lebanese soldiers during the last Arsal battle by the Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat al-Nusra on Aug. 2. Various efforts have been made by a number of different parties to free the hostages, to no avail.

However, this issue has recently witnessed three major developments, according to security sources who closely follow the matter. The first development is IS’ attempt to control additional areas in Syria’s Qalamoun region, which is adjacent to the Lebanese-Syrian border. The second development is the lack of cohesion at the level of the Kidnapped Families’ Committee. As the recent statement of the brother of one of the kidnapped said, “The people of the military committee do not represent all the people and we will not commit ourselves or acknowledge it.” The third development is the list of demands from Sheikh Wissam al-Masri, one of the negotiators who recently took part in the efforts to release the soldiers.

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