Syria regime demands sanctions relief and US troop withdrawal for release of American captives: report

Syria regime demands sanctions relief and US troop withdrawal for release of American captives: report
The Syrian regime is believed to be holding four American captives.
2 min read
21 October, 2020
Al-Tanf is based in southern Syria [Getty]

The Syrian regime has issued a list of demands to Washington in return for assistance with the release of Americans who are believed to be held captive by Damascus.

The list of demands was brought by Lebanese security chief Abbas Ibrahim to the Trump administration during a visit to Washington this week, Newsweek reported.

Ibrahim held a four-hour talk with US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien in Washington about the captives and presented him with Damascus' terms, the magazine reported.

The negotiations are thought to centre on the fates of journalist Austin Tice and therapist Majd Ka­malmaz, who went missing in 2012 and 2017 respectively.

The meeting was also believed to confirm the fate of the two hostages, who Washington has said are most likely alive even though Damascus has denied any knowledge about their whereabouts.

Austin Tice's parents, Marc and Debra, issued a statement regarding the developments.

"For years we have pushed for engagement between the US and Syrian governments to help bring our son safely home, so we hope recent reports are accurate," they said.

"We are deeply grateful to everyone working for Austin's safe return, and his continued absence shows there is more to be done."

Bashar Al-Assad is thought to be demanding Washington lift sanctions on Damascus and withdraw American troops from the southern Syrian base of Al-Tanf, in return for help with the release of the captives.

There are thought to be four Americans detained by the Syrian regime, although little is known about two of them.

Tice and Kamalmaz are believed to be held by the Syrian regime  since they disappeared.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Kash Patel, President Donald Trump's deputy assistant and the administration's counter-terrorism representative, flew to Damascus earlier this year to secure the release of the "hostages".

The US enacted a series of sanctions on Syria following the regime's brutal assault on pro-democracy protests in 2011.

Nine years later, and with half-a-million Syrians killed - mostly from regime bombing and shelling - Washington has implemented even tougher sanctions on Assad and his cronies.

The US has around 500 troops in Syria, mostly in the northeast with Kurdish forces in a campaign against the Islamic State group.

There are also a number of American soldiers at the southern Syrian base of Al-Tanf, which has prevented the regime from capturing the Al-Rukban refugee camp and surrounding areas.

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