Czech diplomats secure release of German NGO workers in Syria

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic has negotiated the release of two workers for a German humanitarian group in Syria, the Czech and German foreign ministries said on Thursday.

The Czech Republic is the only country in Europe that maintains diplomatic relations in Syria, torn by seven years of civil war. The Czechs provide consular services for European Union citizens and act as intermediaries for other countries.

A spokeswoman for the German foreign ministry said the two workers, one of whom is a German man, had departed Syria and would now be reunited with their families.

The nationality of the other worker was not disclosed, and neither person was named.

The Czech ministry said in a statement that Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek traveled to Damascus for the handover of the workers, and that both were in good health.

They were to travel to Prague and be met by representatives of their embassies, the ministry said.

The German ministry spokeswoman welcomed Hamacek’s personal involvement in the case, and said the two workers’ return would likely not have been possible without the “quick and unbureaucratic help of our Czech friends.”

The two men were arrested several months ago near the Iraqi border on charges of entering the country without the necessary papers, according to Czech media reports.

No further details about the case or the workers were immediately available.

Reporting by Jason Hovet; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Berlin; Editing by Larry King and Hugh Lawson