AMID tentative signs that
the two kidnapped Syrian archbishops are safe and in good health,
the international community has begun what looks like a final
attempt to find a diplomatic solution to the worsening crisis in
Nothing has yet been
heard directly from the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox
Archbishops of Aleppo, Mor Yohanna Ibrahim, and the Most Revd Paul
Yazigi, who were seized last month (News, 3,
But a prominent Lebanese
Christian leader, Amin Gemayel, has reported receiving assurances
from the acting head of the Syrian National Council opposition
group, George Sabra, that the two men are in good health. They are
apparently being held by a group of rebels near Aleppo.
Mr Gemayel announced the
news after a meeting with Metropolitan Theophilos George Saliba, of
Mount Lebanon; Bishop Daniel Koriyeh, of Beirut; the President of
the Syriac League, Habib Afram; and the Deputy Bishop of Aleppo,
the Very Revd Joseph Shabo. The group did not specify what steps
were being taken to secure their release.
efforts to try to end the fighting in Syria have gathered momentum.
After a joint call last week by the United States and Russia for an
international conference on Syria to be convened in early June,
David Cameron held talks in Russia with President Putin. He then
flew to Washington for discussions with President Obama.
There is no mistaking the
determination of the leaders involved, but President Obama said:
"I'm not promising that it's going to be successful. It's going to
be challenging, but it's worth the effort."
The obstacles in the way
of progress are huge. Although Russia agrees with Western states
that a diplomatic initiative is required, differences remain.
Moscow insists that Syria has a future under President Bashar
Also, it is uncertain who
would represent the various factions that comprise the Syrian
opposition at an international conference. Furthermore, there must
be doubts whether President Assad would agree to participate in a
meeting that would effectively require him to hand over power.
Summing up the prospects
of the coming weeks, President Obama was not optimistic.
"Sometimes, once the furies have been unleashed in a situation like
we're seeing in Syria, it's very hard to put things back
"There are going to be enormous challenges in getting a credible
process going, even if Russia is involved, because we still have
other countries like Iran. And we have non-state actors, like
Hezbollah, that have been actively involved."