US government in 'direct contact' with Assad regime over Austin Tice: report

US government in 'direct contact' with Assad regime over Austin Tice: report
The revelations follow public calls by the Biden Administration for the Syrian regime to release Tice - who they have never admitted official to holding.
2 min read
13 August, 2022
US President Joe Biden met with the Tice family recently to discuss the case [Getty]

The US government has communicated directly with the Syrian government for the first time in years in efforts to secure the release of jailed journalist Austin Tice, CNN reported Friday.

The American government had addressed the Assad regime publicly to call for the journalist’s release, but details of direct communication with Damascus are now emerging for the first time. 

Austin Tice has been held hostage by the Assad regime for 10 years, after being captured at a checkpoint while reporting from Damascus. 

No government or armed group has ever admitted to holding Tice in their custody. 

According to US President Joe Biden, the US government knows “with certainty that he has been held by the Syrian regime” - but has not confirmed that they know his whereabouts. 

"The United States has engaged extensively to try to get Austin home, including directly with Syrian officials and through third parties," the senior administration official said to CNN

"Unlike in other situations where Americans are detained abroad, for many months, the Syrian government has not agreed to senior-level meetings to discuss Austin's case, nor has it ever acknowledged holding him," they added.


Diplomatic ties between Syria and the United States were suspended indefinitely in 2012, after the onset of the Syrian civil war that has left hundreds of thousands dead and forced millions to flee from their homes. 

Despite the exceptional communication on the Tice case, a wider resumption of diplomatic communication seems unlikely in the immediate future.

"The United States will not normalise or upgrade our diplomatic relations with the Assad regime nor do we encourage others to do so, given the atrocities inflicted by the Assad regime on the Syrian people," a State Department spokesperson said in an email to Reuters in November 2021. 

"Assad has regained no legitimacy in our eyes, and there is no question of the US normalising relations with his government at this time."