Fresh delay in release of Syrian nuns

Deal falls at 11th hour

A deal brokered with the kidnappers of 13 nuns in Syria has apparently stalled at the 11th hour, according to a prelate close to the negotiations.

Speaking to the media from Beirut in Lebanon, Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai said that talks conducted between representatives of his Church and those of the Islamist rebel grouping holding the nuns of Maalula had struck an impasse.

“We have made multiple contacts with several international sides and the nuns’ release was imminent but the issue stumbled again,” the cardinal said.

The 13 nuns make up the congregation of the monastery of St Thecla in the ancient enclave of Maalula, and had remained in the town despite an upsurge in clashes near their community as rebel groupings made gains against troops loyal to Preseidnt Bashar al Assad. Then, in December, the sisters disappeared, appearing later in a video posting showing them in apparent good health. It is reported the nuns are still held in the town of Yabroud, near Maalula.

“The nuns’ detention is a disgrace to the world,” Rai said.

Just days before Cardinal Rai’s comments, Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, revealed that representatives of Qatar are attempting to secure the release of the nuns and he remained hopeful the issue would be resolved soon.