Syria Denies Holding American Journalist Captive After Biden Admin Confirms Efforts For His Release

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FILE PHOTO: Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 remarks at the White House

Syria Denies Holding American Journalist Captive After Biden Admin Confirms Efforts For His Release

Micaela Burrow on August 17, 2022

Syria denied holding journalist Austin Tice captive Wednesday after the Biden administration, following years of relative silence, acknowledged ongoing efforts to secure his release.

The Syrian foreign ministry accused the U.S. of giving “misleading and illogical statements” that place unwarranted blame on the Assad regime for kidnapping Tice, who went missing at a checkpoint near Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012, the Associated Press reported. On Aug. 11, 2022, one decade after his disappearance, the Biden administration confirmed the U.S. has engaged in recent talks with Syria to bring Tice home, the clearest indication in four years that the U.S. believes Syria is holding the reporter hostage.

“The U.S. Government knows with certainty that Austin was held by the Syrian Government and that they have the power to release him,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said.  “The U.S. Government is extensively engaged with Syrian officials to bring Austin home.”

“Syria has never even acknowledged holding him,” Patel added.

A video of Tice, blindfolded and restrained by armed men, released a month after he disappeared served as the last public indication of his whereabouts, the AP reported.

Tice, then 31, traveled to Syria to cover the popular uprising and brutal regime crackdown that began in 2011 and has displaced up to 23 million Syrans and killed hundreds of thousands, the AP reported.

State Department spokesman Ned Price clarified Monday that the U.S. has activated direct and third-party diplomatic channels to secure Tice’s return to the U.S.

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The Syrian Foreign Ministry disputed the State Department’s claim and charged the U.S. with unlawfully sending its soldiers into Syria to protect what it described as “terrorist” forces.

“The Syrian government denies that it has kidnapped or disappeared any American citizen who entered its territory or resided in areas under the sovereignty and authority of the Syrian government,” the Foreign Ministry said. 

Top hostage negotiator Roger Carstens made a secret trip to Damascus in the summer of 2020 during the Trump administration to engage in unusual high-level talks with the Assad government that reportedly proved fruitless, accordingto the AP. Since then, little had been said about U.S. efforts regarding Tice’s captivity.

President Joe Biden met with Tice’s parents in May while Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, a Lebanese official who has worked on difficult hostage cases in the past, met with U.S. leaders in Washington to further mediation efforts between the U.S. and Syria, the AP reported.

The White House, the State Department and the Honorary Consulate for Syria in British Columbia did not return the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

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