Turkey worked for release of Japanese reporter after Abe’s meeting

Turkey’s foreign minister said Tuesday the country’s intelligence officials were ordered to work toward the release of a freelance Japanese journalist held captive in Syria after a request for cooperation was made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in September.

The hostage issue was raised when Abe and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in late September in New York, according to the foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu.

«This issue was also raised and President Erdogan instructed our intelligence to do its best,» Cavusoglu told a press conference in Tokyo.

(Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) and his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono)

Cavusoglu said no ransom was paid by Turkey or Japan before journalist Jumpei Yasuda was released in October.

«You can imagine that it’s not easy to make any kind of deal with radical groups or terrorist groups on the ground,» he said.

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Abe visited New York in September to attend the General Assembly of the United Nations and held talks with Erdogan and his other foreign counterparts on the sidelines of the gathering.

Yasuda entered Syria in 2015 to cover the civil war but was taken hostage by a warring faction that later demanded a ransom for the release of the journalist, who spent over three years in captivity.

(Photo released in May 2016 shows Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda holding a sign pleading for help while held captive in Syria)

The Japanese government confirmed on Oct. 24 that the man freed and under protection in the southern Turkish city of Antakya was the 44-year-old journalist. Tokyo has denied it paid a ransom to win his release.

«As far as I know, no ransom was paid for this. And Japan never had actually any intention to do so. As Turkey also, we don’t pay ransoms to rescue any people,» Cavusoglu said. «Otherwise, these radical groups will be further encouraged to take other people hostage.»

The Turkish foreign minister is on a visit to Japan to deepen bilateral ties. He has met with Foreign Minister Taro Kono and trade minister Hiroshige Seko.

All — Kyodo News+

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