Ali Akbar Salehi

Iran says Turkey and Qatar should try negotiating with the Syrian opposition forces to secure the release of Iranian hostages.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the Khaneh Mellat News Agency: “The foreign ministry is making is making an all-out effort to release the Iranian hostages in Syria.”

The 48 Iranians, together with an Afghan translator, were abducted en route to the Holy Shrine of Zeinab near Damascus on August 4, 2012.

“The Assad government has assisted in many ways to speed up the release of the abducted Iranian nationals,” Salehi said.

He expressed every hope that Iran’s diplomatic efforts would result in the release of the kidnapped Iranians.

The Syrian opposition announced last week that if the Syrian government did not stop “bombing cities and killing opposition forces” within 48 hours, it would begin killing an Iranian hostage for every dead Syrian.

The deadline passed on Saturday, but the opposition announced that it has agreed to extend the deadline due to Qatar’s request.

Iran has also called on international bodies to intervene on behalf of the Iranian hostages, while foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the kidnappers and their supporters were responsible for the lives of the Iranian hostages.

The Syrian opposition suspects the Iranian hostages of being connected with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, but the Iranian foreign minister has said that while some retired IRGC members are in the group, it is basically a group of Iranian pilgrims, and he denied that they could have any military objective in Syria.

Iran is a supporter of the Beshar Assad regime, while Qatar and Turkey have sided with the country’s opposition.