Trump official 'went to Damascus' for Syria regime talks

Trump official went to Damascus for Syria regime talks on 'American hostage' release
3 min read
19 October, 2020
Four American hostages are believed to be held in Syria.
Majd Kamalmaz is one of four American hostages held in Syria [Wikipedia]

Lebanon's top security chief, Abbas Ibrahim, has flown to the US for talks on the fate of American hostages held by the Syrian regime, according to media reports.

Ibrahim is in Washington for a four-day visit, and is said to have new information on Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who went missing in Syria eight-years-ago, according to The National.

When asked by The National on Tice's case, Ibrahim said there "are no confirmations about his status".

It comes after it was revealed on Sunday that a leading US official went to Syria earlier this year to try and secure the release of two Americans, who are believed to be held in the country.

Kash Patel, President Donald Trump's deputy assistant and the administration's counterterrorism representative, flew to Damascus earlier this year to secure the release of the "hostages", according to The Wall Street Journal.

Patel had hoped to free Tice, who disappeared in Syria in 2012, and Majd Kamalmaz, a Syrian-American who was working as a therapist before going missing at a regime checkpoint in 2017.

Both are believed to be held by the Syrian regime, along with two other Americans, who little is know about.

"It is emblematic of how President Trump has made it a major priority to bring Americans home who have been detained overseas," an official told the WSJ.

Patel's trip marked the first meeting between high-level US and Syrian officials inside Syria for more than a decade.

It came after Trump in March wrote a letter to Bashar Al-Assad proposing "direct dialogue" regarding the release of Tice, a former American marine.

The talks stumbled when the Assad regime demanded that the US withdraw all forces from Syria, although Trump is said to be keen on a swift exit.

The US intervened in Syria in 2014 against the Islamic State group, first funding and equipping rebels and later supporting Kurdish-led forces.

IS was defeated by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces coalition in 2019, with Trump announcing a full withdrawal of US forces from Syria but later cutting the number down to around 500.

Despite the failure of talks to secure the release of the two men, Ibrahim Kamalmaz, Majd's son, was hopeful that the Trump administration is working hard on the issue.

"This administration is committed to our dad's case, and we continue to speak with officials at the highest levels of the U.S. Government to bring dad home," he told the daily.

Last week, Abbas Ibrahim, held talks with Trump's National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien on the hostages, according to the WSJ.

Ibrahim helped secure the release of Sam Goodwin last year, an American backpacker who was held in Syria, along with a Canadian.

Ibrahim is reportedly in the US to hold talks on the hostages.

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