The U.S. could improve its relations with the Damascus government and restore public communications, if the Syrian authorities release missing American journalist Austin Tice, Washington’s special envoy for hostage affairs said in a recent interview with the National.
“The president has made it very clear that if you want to have better relations with the US, if you want the atmosphere for better relations, then don’t hold our hostages, or help us find our hostages if they’re missing in your country,” Robert O’Brien said in the interview that was released on April 10.
37-year old Austin Tice, a former U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer, went missing while he was covering the battles in the outskirt of the Syrian capital in August of 2012. The free-lance journalist was moving with local Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters.
In September 2012 a 47-second video of Tice blindfolded and surrounded by Islamic radicals was released. Despite this, the U.S. insists that the journalist is being held by Syrian authorities.
O’Brien said that the Damascus government should release Tice, if it wants to re-enter the community of nations and have a better atmosphere with the U.S. The diplomat citied North Korea, who released four U.S. captives without conditions, as an example and revealed that the release of these hostages resulted in presidential talks between the two countries.
“We are calling upon the government in Syria to do everything they can to help us find Austin as well as other Americans in Syria,” O’Brien added.
The Damascus government has not commented publicly on the issue of Austin Tice yet. However, many reports claim that Syrian and U.S. security officials held several secret meetings to resolve this issue during the last few years.