تشارك الولايات المتحدة والحكومة السورية في محادثات مباشرة بشأن مكان وجود اوستن تايس الصحفي والمصور الأمريكي المستقل والذي اختفى في سوريا منذ أكثر من عامين ونصف في خضم اتساع الحرب الأهلية في البلاد وجاءت هذه الأقوال على لسان مسؤول في وزارة الخارجية ووالد الصحفي يوم الخميس.
وقد لفت تقرير صدر مؤخرا في صحيفة ليفاغروا الفرنسية أن المحادثات جارية للافراج عنه وبأن مكانه معروف في حين قالت السلطات السورية مرارا وتكرارا بأنها لا تعرف مكان وجوده وإن كان أحدا اعتقله .
The United States and Syrian governments are engaged in direct talks concerning the whereabouts of Austin Tice, an American freelance journalist and photographer who disappeared in Syria more than two and a half years ago in the midst of the country’s widening civil war, a State Department official and Mr. Tice’s father said Thursday.
But they denied a recent report in Le Figaro, a French newspaper, that talks were underway to free him and that his location is known. The Syrian authorities have repeatedly said they do not know where Mr. Tice is or who, if anyone, is holding him.
Nonetheless, the acknowledgment of direct contacts between American and Syrian officials is unusual. It appeared to suggest some easing, however slight, of the deep hostility and mistrust expressed by the United States toward President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, whose repression of political dissent in 2011 morphed into a civil war that has become a political and humanitarian disaster.
A State Department official confirmed a statement reported by Reuters that “we have been in periodic, direct contact with Syrian government officials strictly on consular issues, including the case of Austin Tice.” The official spoke on the condition of anonymity in accordance with department policy.
Mr. Tice’s father, Marc Allen Tice, said in a telephone interview from his Houston home that the State Department had informed him and his wife, Debra, of the contacts. “We’re really happy to hear definitively that the United States and Syria are in direct talks,” he said.
The father also said that “nobody has seen or visited Austin,” and that the family had no information on his captors. At the same time, the father said, he was sure that the Islamic State, the extremist group in Syria that has abducted and killed other Americans in the country, did not have custody of Mr. Tice. “What we hear and understand is that he is most very likely alive and being reasonably well treated, wherever he is,” the father said.
Mr. Tice, 33, who served with the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan and was enrolled as a student in Georgetown Law School at the time he entered Syria, vanished in August 2012. He had done work for a number of Western news organizations and had developed a following on Facebook and Twitter with his accounts of the Syrian uprising against Mr. Assad.