President Joe Biden met on Monday with the parents of American journalist Austin Tice, kidnapped in Syria nearly 10 years ago, the White House announced.
“During their meeting, the President reiterated his commitment to continue to work through all available means to secure Austin’s long-awaited return to his family,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. , in a press release summarizing the meeting with Marc and Debra Tice.
She described the encounter as a result of “multiple meetings and conversations” between the Tice family and White House national security officials.
Debra Tice was featured on Saturday night as being present at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, where Biden paid tribute in his remarks to missing or detained reporters. Biden also said at the event that he wanted to meet with the Tices to talk about their son.
“After the president made those comments, we obviously sprang into action to arrange the meeting,” Psaki said Monday, adding that the White House has “been very closely engaged with the family.”
Tice, who is originally from Houston and whose work had been published by the Washington Post, McClatchy newspapers and other outlets, disappeared in August 2012 at a checkpoint in a disputed area west of Damascus.
A video released weeks later showed him blindfolded and held by gunmen and saying, “Oh, Jesus.” He has not been heard from since. Syria has never acknowledged holding him.
In the final months of the Trump administration, two US officials – including the government’s chief hostage negotiator, Roger Carstens – makes a secret visit to Damascus seek information on Tice and other Americans who have disappeared in Syria. It was the highest-level discussion in years between the United States and the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, although Syrian officials did not provide any meaningful information about Tice.
PSAKI told reporters earlier in the day that there have been several meetings between members of the Tice family and administration officials over the past six months, including one last week.
Debra Tice previously criticized her lack of direct access to the White House, saying at a National Press Club event last December that she had been unable to secure a meeting with Biden since he became president and that he had never spoken Austin’s name publicly.
“The obstacle I have is the White House,” she said then, adding, “I wonder if he allowed himself to forget about Austin. I have no indication otherwise. .
Last week, the United States secured the release of Trevor Roseau, a US Navy veteran held in Russia for nearly three years, as part of a prisoner exchange. Relatives of Reed and other detained Americans are holding a press conference near the White House on Wednesday to plead for the release of their loved ones.
Associated Press writer Chris Megerian contributed to this report.