Mother of US journalist missing in Syria launches appeal
The mother of a US journalist missing in Syria since 2012 on Monday appealed to President Donald Trump for help in securing his release, claiming that one or more senior US officials have blocked talks with the Damascus government on the matter.
Debra Tice, appearing at a news conference to speak about her son Austin Tice, said she believes the Syrian government was willing to speak with Washington since 2014 but that the US government failed to follow through.
"There is a senior US government official who is hesitating or stalling," she said, declining to offer any specifics or indicate if it was the same person in both the Obama and Trump administrations.
The State Department said in response only that that it is in fact working to secure Tice's release.
The photojournalist's mother said that during one of her visits to Syria in March 2014, she got "a message" from the Syrian government that it would only consider talks with "a US government official of appropriate title" and that she had been pressing Washington on this since that time to accept the offer.
Tice said she believed Trump wanted to help secure her son's release and urged him to break the stalemate that has prevented any negotiations on Austin Tice, a former Marine officer who has worked as a freelance photographer for the Washington Post, AFP and other news organizations.
"There is no possible way for me to understand why anyone would defy the president's will and choose to leave our beloved son who puts his life on the line serving this country three tours as a Marine Corps officer," she said.
She said she hoped Trump would address her son's case in his State of the Union address set for next week.
While it remained unclear who is holding her son, Debra Tice maintained that "the Syrian government is best placed to secure his relief."
She said she had "credible information" that her son is still alive in Syria, without elaborating.
A State Department spokesperson said Monday, "recovering American hostages is a top priority for this Administration and President Trump continues to successfully secure the release of American hostages."
"We work tirelessly on each and every case of an American being held hostage abroad and we will continue to do so in the case of Austin Tice until he is back home with his family and loved ones," the spokesperson said.
The Tice family is organizing a second "night out for Austin Tice" to raise funds to add to a $1 million FBI reward for information that would lead to his recovery.