Washington clarifies to Enab Baladi Assad’s claims of secret meetings with US officials

Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, in a special interview with the Abkhazian Foreign Minister, Inal Ardzinba, in Damascus - April 21, 2024 (Syrian Presidency)

Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, in a special interview with the Abkhazian Foreign Minister, Inal Ardzinba, in Damascus - April 21, 2024 (Syrian Presidency)


In a special interview with the Foreign Minister of Abkhazia, Inal Ardzinba, in Damascus on April 21, 2024, Syrian regime head Bashar al-Assad discussed occasional meetings with the United States, without providing further details about the nature and objectives of these meetings.

During the interview, al-Assad answered whether there is a long-term strategic chance to reopen dialogue with the collective West, stating, “Hope is always present, even when we know there will be no result, we must try.”

Al-Assad added, “The United States illegitimately occupies parts of our territory, funds terrorism, and supports Israel. However, we meet with them from time to time, although these meetings lead to nothing, but everything will change.”

Responding to Bashar al-Assad’s comments, a US State Department official told Enab Baladi that the US administration’s stance remains clear: “We will not normalize relations with the Assad regime in the absence of real progress towards a permanent political solution to the fundamental conflict.”

The official clarified that the United States continues to make this clear both publicly and secretly with its partners, including those interacting with the regime.

As for the nature of the meetings al-Assad referred to, or their reasons and outcomes, the official stated that as a general policy, no comment is made on the US government’s diplomatic discussions.

“We believe that a political solution as outlined in United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 is the only viable solution to the Syrian conflict, and we are working with our allies, like-minded partners, and the United Nations to implement Security Council Resolution 2254,” said the US State Department official to Enab Baladi.

The Austin Tice case

On May 3, 2023, The Wall Street Journal reported that President Joe Biden’s administration renewed direct talks with the Syrian regime to determine the fate of American journalist Austin Tice, missing in Syria. Officials in the Middle East briefed on the matter reported that American negotiators held a series of meetings in the Middle East with officials from the regime.

The officials stated that the US side requested in November 2022 that the Sultanate of Oman expedite mediation efforts with the regime, followed by US officials meeting with Syrian intelligence and political leaders in Muscat to discuss issues including the disappearance of Americans such as Austin Tice.

Previously, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned that his country was engaged with a third country trying to find a way to bring Austin Tice back to the United States. However, the White House Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, declined to confirm negotiations to maintain the safety and support of journalists (referring to Tice).

When asked by Enab Baladi whether the meetings al-Assad referred to were related to the US administration’s negotiations with the Syrian regime regarding the case of the journalist Austin Tice, the official confirmed that Tice had been held captive in Syria for over 11 years and urged the Syrian government to ensure that Tice and all American citizens detained as hostages in Syria could return home.

Blinken reiterated in May 2023, “We are extensively engaged with Syria and a third country to find a way to bring him home, and we will not back down until we do so.”

Who is Austin Tice?

Austin Tice, a former US Marine and photojournalist, chose to travel to Syria to report news to US media outlets, including CBS and The Washington Post, according to a statement from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

He was detained at a checkpoint outside Damascus on August 13, 2012, and a special source previously told Enab Baladi that before disappearing, Tice had met with a group of civil activists and members of the Free Syrian Army in the town of Daraya, south of Damascus. He held an exclusive interview with them and prepared his report before being transported out of the town, after which there has been no news of him.

A video surfaced a month after his disappearance, showing him blindfolded and handcuffed, accompanied by an armed man.



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