Syrian FM denies holding kidnapped journalist Austin Tice

Syrian FM denies holding kidnapped journalist Austin Tice
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In response to US President's call for Tice's release, Damascus accused US authorities of encouraging US citizens to infiltrate into areas controlled by terrorist groups in Syria.

A week after US President Joe Biden called upon the Syrian government to release US citizen Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who according to US authorities was kidnapped in Damascus in August 2012, the Syrian Foreign Ministry denied holding him.

Biden had said: "We know with certainty that he has been held by the Government of Syria."

In response, the Syrian FM said in a statement on Wednesday:

"The Syrian Arab Republic categorically denies the accusations on kidnapping, or hiding any American citizen who entered its territories or stayed in the areas under the sovereignty and authority of the Syrian Government,"

The Ministry described Tice not as a journalist but as "the soldier at the US army", with reference to him being a former US Marine officer.

It also noted:

"The US government had admitted many years ago that Austin Tice and other Americans had entered the Syrian territories illegally."

It added:

"Syria draws attention of US public and officials to the fact that the government of their country has violated the provisions of Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the provisions of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations when it turned a blind eye and even encouraged dozens of US citizens to travel to Syria and illegally enter its territories without the permission of its government via illegal border crossings or infiltrating into areas controlled by armed terrorist groups."

Tice went missing on 14 August 2012 at a checkpoint in a contested area west of the capital of Damascus. A video released a month later showed him blindfolded and held by armed men, saying, “Oh, Jesus.” He has not been heard from since.