Syrian President Bashar Assad asked his counterpart from Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, to release two Hizbullah operatives who were arrested on suspicion of plotting a terror attack on Israel's embassy in the capital Baku last year, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Seyassah report Sunday.
According to the report, during his recent visit to Baku, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem relayed a telegram to Aliyev in which Assad asked the Azeri president to interfere in the matter and work towards releasing the suspects, who were identified as Ali Karaki, whom anti-terrorism officials describe as a veteran of Hizbullah's external operations unit, and Ali Najem Aladine, described as a lower-ranking explosives expert.
Assad wrote that Syria would view the operatives' early release "favorably," adding that in return Hizbullah would vow never to operate in Azerbaijan's territory in the future.
According to the Kuwaiti paper, Aliyev denied Assad's request, saying the suspects' fate would be determined by the courts and the he did not have the authority to pardon them.
Moallem's delegation was reportedly displeased with Aliyev's response. It remains to be seen whether the affair will have any affect on Assad's upcoming visit to Azerbaijan.
Al Seyassah quoted sources as saying that Assad made the request after being approached by Hizbullah on the matter.