ANKARA, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- The kidnapping of two pilots of Turkish Airlines by gunmen in Beirut last week accentuated pitfalls and challenges that Ankara has been facing due to the foreign policy choices it has made with regard to Syria, analysts say.
"This is a blowback from Turkey's policy decision that strongly supports the opposition in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad 's regime," Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, head of Ankara's International Strategic and Security Research Center, told Xinhua.
"The perception is that Ankara is increasingly seen as pursuing a sectarian policy in deep Shiite and Sunni division in the Middle East region, whether that allegation has a truth or not," he said.
Ankara has scrambled its diplomats since last Friday to secure the release of the kidnapped pilots and asked the help of the Lebanese and Iranian governments in order to convince the captors.
The group that abducted the Turkish citizens demands the release of nine kidnapped Lebanese Shiite pilgrims abducted by the Syrian opposition forces in Syria last May. It also asks the Turkish government to use its influence on the Syrian opposition to let Lebanese citizens go free.
"We have done our best to use whatever leverage we have on the opposition in Syria to make this happen," a Turkish diplomat told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
"We have limited influence and there is a wide array of opposition groups that might have abducted these Lebanese Shiites, " said the diplomat.
Zuwar al Imam Reda, a previously unknown group, claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and said Turkish captives will be held until Lebanese pilgrims are released.
Since May, relatives and families of the abducted Lebanese nationals have staged several protests in front of the Turkish embassy in Beirut and Turkish Airlines' Beirut office.
This is not the first time Turkish citizens have been kidnapped in Lebanon. One businessman and a truck driver were also abducted by gunmen last year before they were finally let go.
Sami Kohen, a veteran Turkish foreign policy analyst, sees the abduction as a result of collateral effect of Turkey's Syrian policy, saying that this is why Turkey is facing problems in Lebanon.
"Other problems created by the [Turkish] government's Syrian policy have started to come out every passing day," he said, noting that Turkey was left alone in what he called the " principled" approach in Syria.
The incident prompted Turkey to issue a travel warning for Turkish citizens who are in Lebanon or plan to visit there. The security around the Turkish mission in Beirut and Turkish cultural center were also beefed up, while Lebanese security forces have tightened security around Turkish businesses as well.
Turkey has announced the drawdown of its forces within the UN Interim Force in Lebanon's (UNIFIL) that oversees a shaky ceasefire between Israel and Shiite Hezbollah group based in southern Lebanon. However, it denied that the decision was tied to incidents in Lebanon and vowed to keep its presence in UNIFIL's naval force with 58 troops and a frigate.
The Syrian crisis has spilled over into neighboring Lebanon with swelling refugees and increased tension on the country's fragile sectarian balance.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati has said his country's authorities are doing their utmost to search for the two missing pilots and ensure their release.
Security forces have took into custody a Lebanese man after he allegedly contacted the pilots' kidnappers by telephone. Turkish intelligence agency is also working with its Lebanese counterpart to identify kidnappers, local media reported Tuesday.
"As in previous similar cases, we are making every effort to reunite the pilots with their families safely," said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.