Thu, 24 Sep 2020

Donald Trump personally wrote to his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad about the case of journalist Austin Tice, says Mike PompeoTice has been missing since 2012Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organisations when he disappeared

US President Donald Trump personally wrote to his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad about the case of journalist Austin Tice, who has been missing since 2012, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.

"The US government has repeatedly attempted to engage Syrian officials to seek Austin's release," Pompeo said in a statement on the eighth anniversary of Tice's disappearance.

"President Trump wrote to Bashar al-Assad in March to propose direct dialogue."

Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organisations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on August 14, 2012.

Thirty-one years old at the time he was captured, Tice appeared blindfolded in the custody of an unidentified group of armed men in a video a month later.

Since then, there has been no official information on whether he is alive or dead.

In March, Trump said the United States had written a letter to authorities in Damascus, without specifying that he himself had written personally to Assad, who Washington wants out of power.

At that time, Trump said he did not know if Tice was still alive.

"No one should doubt the president's commitment to bringing home all US citizens held hostage or wrongfully detained overseas," Pompeo said on Friday.

"Nowhere is that determination stronger than in Austin Tice's case."

Pompeo said he and Trump hoped there would be "no need for another statement like this a year from now."

"Austin Tice's release and return home are long, long overdue. We will do our utmost to achieve that goal," he added.

A year ago, the US government said it believed Tice was still alive.

His mother Debra Tice said in January that she had "credible information" to that effect, without elaborating.

In 2018, US authorities announced a $1 million reward for information that would lead to his recovery.

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