Mediators working for the release of former German diplomat Jürgen Chrobog and his family taken hostage in Yemen were finalizing a plan for their liberation, tribal sources close to the negotiators said on Friday.
Steinmeier is confident of a safe return for the hostages
They said a mediation team made up of tribal chiefs and government representatives left the eastern region of Shabwa, where Chrobog, his wife and three children were seized, to Aden in south Yemen to discuss the kidnappers' demands with local officials.
Chrobog, who served as German ambassador to the United States from 1995 to 2001, and his family were reportedly abducted about five days ago from a restaurant on the road between the southern port city of Aden and the eastern region of Shabwa, 480 kilometres (300 miles) east of the capital Sana.
Tribal chief Sheikh al-Ahmar Ali al-Aswad is holding the Germans as bargaining chips for the release of five brothers imprisoned by Yemeni authorities, a tribal source told AFP.
Yemen: no violence will be used
In Berlin, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said Germany was trying to find a settlement by Saturday. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called his Yemeni counterpart early Friday to ask him to help settle the crisis by negotiations.
"The government of Yemen has guaranteed the German government that there will be a peaceful solution to the hostage-taking," the German foreign ministry said on Friday. No violence will be applied, the ministry stressed.
"The life and physical integrity of the hostages has absolute priority," said spokesman Martin Jäger at a press briefing. "We hope that by tomorrow (Saturday) a solution will have been found," he said.
Chrobog and his family are expected to be free soon
Steinmeier, who was to hold another crisis meeting in the afternoon, was planning to call Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh later in the day.
Family as bargaining chip
"The government counts on a peaceful solution and the Yemeni party made assurances this will happen," he said.
Jäger said the German ambassador to Sana also met with the Yemeni interior minister Friday morning. The spokesman said Chrobog, who ironically once helped free hostages held in Mali, had respected German security advisories for Yemen.
It was the fourth abduction of foreign tourists in Yemen this year. Two Austrians were freed only last week after being held for three days.