US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony BlinkenState Department Photo by Freddie Everett

The United States is extensively engaged on the case of US journalist Austin Tice, who disappeared a decade ago, including with Syria and other countries, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Tice, a former US Marine and a freelance journalist, was kidnapped in August 2012 while reporting in Damascus on the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. He was 31 at the time.

His family believes he is alive and still being held in Syria. The identity of Tice's captors is not known, and there has been no claim of responsibility for his abduction.

US President Joe Biden last year said Washington knows "with certainty" that Tice has at times been held by the Syrian government. Syria's government has denied kidnapping or holding Tice.

"We’re extensively engaged with regard to Austin – engaged with Syria, engaged with third countries – seeking to find a way to get him home. And we’re not going to relent until we do," Blinken was quoted as having told the Washington Post in an interview.

In 2020, it was reported that a Trump administration official traveled to Damascus for secret meetings with the Syrian government seeking the release of at least two US citizens thought to be held there, including Tice.

The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday reported that the Biden administration has renewed direct talks with Syria over Tice's case and those of other Americans.

When asked about Tice, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she could not confirm any meetings.

Syria erupted into a civil war after Assad in 2011 began a crackdown on protesters calling for an end to his family’s rule. Washington suspended its diplomatic presence in Syria in 2012 in the wake of the civil war.

Since then, the Syrian President has repeatedly rejected ties with the United States and other countries that support Syrian rebels, whom he calls “terrorists”.

Syria's government refers to all those who oppose it as "terrorists", including both jihadist rebels as well as rebels considered by the West to be “moderate”.

The United States and most European countries shut their embassies in Damascus after the government's bloody crackdown on protests.