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Björn von Sydow expresses concern at disappearance of priest in Syria

Strasbourg, 01.08.2013 – Björn von Sydow (Sweden, SOC), Chair of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), joined by Pietro Marcenaro, former PACE Rapporteur on the situation in Syria and in the Middle East, have expressed deep concern at the disappearance of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a prominent Italian Jesuit priest and leader of the Deir Mar Mûsa monastery in Syria, who has been working to reconcile Syria’s religious and ethnic groups.

According to some recent reports, Father Dall’Oglio may have been abducted by Al Qaeda-linked fighters and members of the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” in a rebel-held eastern Syrian city.

“I met Father Dall'Oglio at a recent conference organised by the PACE Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy and I am concerned about his safety and health,” said Mr von Sydow. “The lack of clear information concerning his whereabouts is worrying. If the reports are true that he is being held against his will, I call for his urgent and immediate release.”

Syrian authorities expelled Dall’Oglio from the country last year for helping victims of President Bashar al-Assad’s military crackdown. He also recently condemned rebel violence against Kurdish residents of Tel al-Abiad, on the border with Turkey. He has worked towards interfaith dialogue in Syria for more than 30 years.

At a December 2012 conference on “Human rights and foreign policy”, organised by PACE’s Political Affairs Committee in co-operation with the Italian Parliament, Father Dall'Oglio issued a call for all Council of Europe Member States as well as the EU to foster dialogue among all components of the Syrian identity, so as to promote a broad and fair constitutional settlement that will allow an end to the violence.