- A top White House official met with the Assad regime in Syria recently to negotiate the release of US hostages, according to Trump administration officials and others, the Wall Street Journal Reported.
- The secret meetings represent the first time such a high-level US official has met with the Assad regime in Syria in more than a decade.
- The talks were to secure the release of US hostages, including Austin Tice, a former Marine and freelance journalist who disappeared in 2012, and Majd Kamalmaz, a Syrian-American therapist who disappeared in 2017.
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A top White House counterterrorism official recently met with the Assad regime in Syria to negotiate the release of US hostages, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
Kash Patel, a deputy assistant to President Donald Trump and top White House counterterrorism official, traveled to Damascus earlier this year for the secret negotiations, Trump administration officials and others familiar with the secret meetings told The Journal.
Patel met with the isolated government in a bid to secure the release of at least two Americans believed to be held hostage by the Assad regime, according to The Journal. It was not immediately clear when the secret negotiations were held, nor with whom Patel met with in his time there.
It was the first time in a decade that such a high-level US official has met with President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, with the last documented meeting in Syria between US and Syrian officials having occured in 2010. The US pulled back from diplomatic relations with Syria in 2012, objecting to Assad’s treatment of people protesting his regime.
The hostages include Austin Tice, a former Marine and freelance journalist who was reporting in Syria when he went missing in 2012, and Majd Kamalmaz, a Syrian-American therapist who disappeared at a Syrian government checkpoint in 2017, according to The Journal.
The Syrian government is believed to have at least four other Americans held captive, citing The Journal report.
“This administration is committed to our dad’s case, and we continue to speak with officials at the highest levels of the U.S. Government to bring dad home,” Ibrahim Kamalmaz, one of Kamalmaz’s sons, told The Journal.
Representatives from the White House and the State Department did not immediately return requests for comment.
In March, Trump said he was “working very hard with Syria” to secure the release of Austin Tice, saying he had recently sent a letter to the Syrian government about the matter, according to The Washington Post.
“There is no higher priority in my Administration than the recovery and return of Americans missing abroad,” Trump said in an August statement.
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