Secret talks in Jordan try to win release of hostages
Updated: 2015-01-28 09:33
Japan's State Minister for Foreign Affairs Yasuhide Nakayama speaks to the media in Amman January 26, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
BEIRUT - Japanese officials were tightlipped Wednesday as secret talks in Jordan sought to secure the freedom of a Japanese journalist and a Jordanian pilot captured by Islamic State extremists and purportedly threatened with death within 24 hours.
The global efforts to free Japanese freelance journalist Kenji Goto and Jordanian Lt. Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh gained greater urgency with the release of the apparent ultimatum from the Islamic State group.
In the message, the extremists say the two hostages will be killed within 24 hours _ - late Wednesday night Japan time - unless Jordan frees Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman sentenced to death in Jordan for her involvement in a 2005 terrorist attack on a hotel that killed 60 people.
The pilot's father, Safi al-Kaseasbeh, made a last-ditch appeal for Jordan "to meet the demands" of the Islamic State group.
"All people must know, from the head of the regime to everybody else, that the safety of Mu'ath means the stability of Jordan, and the death of Mu'ath means chaos in Jordan," he said.
About 200 relatives of the pilot demonstrated outside the prime minister's office in the Jordanian capital of Amman, chanting anti-government slogans and urging it to meet the captors' demands.
A member of Jordan's parliament said the country was in indirect talks with the militants to secure the hostages' release. Bassam Al-Manasseer, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, told Bloomberg News the negotiations are taking place through religious and tribal leaders in Iraq, adding that Jordan and Japan won't negotiate directly with IS and won't free al-Rishawi in exchange for Goto only.
Manaseer's comments were the strongest suggestion yet that authorities in Jordan and Japan may be open to a prisoner exchange, something that would go against the policy of the kingdom's main ally, the US, which opposes negotiating with extremists.
Japan's Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama was in Amman to coordinate hostage-release efforts with Jordan, but refused comment on details of the talks early Wednesday.