WASHINGTON — The Biden administration will continue to work directly with the Syrian government to locate and bring back Austin Tice, a journalist who has been missing in Syria for a decade, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday.
Blinken was speaking at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, commemorating 10 years since Tice, a freelance correspondent who reported for McClatchy, the Washington Post and other media, disappeared on August 14, 2012.
“I can’t say anything that will ease the pain of 10 years of waiting, but I want you to know that the US government remains steadfast in our commitment to bringing Austin home,” Blinken said in a video message.
Blinken said that special envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carstens, “will continue to work with the Syrian government, working closely with the White House.”
“That’s a priority for us,” said Blinken.
Three presidents have failed to locate Tice or bring him home, but President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the United States “knows for sure” that the Syrian government held him at some point in the past decade.
The Syrian government continues to deny any knowledge of Tice’s whereabouts or condition. But US and Syrian officials have resumed direct talks over Tice in recent weeks, giving the Biden administration hope that serious negotiations are possible.
Tice’s parents, Debra and Marc Tice, were present at the event in Washington.
“Today Austin must deal with the terrifying realization that he has lost 10 years of his life. For me, it’s the most painful of the 3,653 days that my firstborn was kept in secret,” said Debra Tice. “Despite the crushing burden of this day, my heart is still filled with hope.”
Debra Tice met with government officials in Washington throughout the week.
“I cautiously believe things are moving in the right direction,” she said. “If the people I’ve met are genuine and genuinely committed to the best of their ability and determination, I believe we will soon see Austin go free and bring this long journey to an end.”
“The government is making better efforts than before,” she added. “There is a strategy.”
Tice was last seen at a checkpoint southwest of the Syrian capital Damascus. Six weeks later, video surfaced purporting to show him alive and being held captive by an unspecified group.
He had traveled to Syria in the summer as a freelance journalist. Texas native Tice was planning to return for his senior year at Georgetown Law School in the fall.
McClatchy CEO Tony Hunter, who attended Sunday’s event, urged the Biden administration to do more to secure Tice’s return.
“We shouldn’t be here – not after waiting ten years for Austin Tice to be released,” Hunter said.
“The simple truth is: the current administration can do more. Therefore, we urge the administration to stop talking and do more,” he added. “Words do not lead to action. We need to see movement and results.”
Fred Ryan, editor of the Washington Post, also called on the White House to step up efforts to get Tice released.
“Ten years in prison is hard to believe,” Ryan said. “The United States should not stand by while Americans are held hostage. We can’t keep Austin languishing in Syria. The Biden administration must step up efforts to secure Austin’s release.”