Pompeo says Syria not forthcoming on missing Americans

Washington (AFP) –


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that Syria's regime has not revealed all it knows about two missing Americans despite a rare visit by a US official.

Despite the absence of diplomatic relations, a US official visited Damascus in August to seek the freedom of journalist Austin Tice and Syrian-American Majd Kamalmaz, The Wall Street Journal first reported on Sunday.

"Our ask is that the Syrians release Mr. Tice -- they tell us what they know. They have chosen not to do that so far," Pompeo told reporters when asked about the mission by the White House official, Kash Patel.

"We are continuing to work for the return not only of Austin but of every American that's held," Pompeo said.

Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organizations 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.

The renewed US communication with the Syrian authorities comes despite continued efforts by Washington to sideline President Bashar al-Assad, who has succeeded in wresting back control of most of the country after nearly a decade of brutal civil war.

President Donald Trump's administration, with backing from Congress, has pursued sanctions against Assad's inner circle, saying there can be no normalization with Damascus without accountability for atrocities.

Pompeo vowed to put a top priority on returning Americans missing overseas but said that the administration will "compartmentalize" the issue.

"We're not going to change American policy to do that," he said.