A number of US officials have remained silent on negotiations with the Syrian regime to release American hostages arrested in Syria.
Commenting on a report published by The Associated Press on a visit carried out by two US officials last summer to Syria, a source from the Syrian opposition said that this might bring the issue back to the surface.
Yet, a diplomatic source from the opposition said that progress is unlikely at a time when American officials are publicly criticizing the Syrian regime.
Yet the trip was ultimately fruitless, with the Syrians raising a series of demands that would have fundamentally reshaped Washington’s policy toward Damascus, including the removal of sanctions, the withdrawal of troops from the country and the restoration of normal diplomatic ties.
Equally as problematic for the American negotiators: Syrian officials offered no meaningful information on the fate and whereabouts of American hostage Austin Tice and others.
“Success would have been bringing the Americans home and we never got there,” Kash Patel, who attended the meeting as a senior White House aide, said in his first public comments about the effort.
The White House acknowledged the meeting in October but said little about it.
The AP has also learned about the US attempts to build goodwill with Syria well before the talks took place, with Patel describing how an unidentified US ally in the region offered assistance with cancer treatment for the wife of President Bashar Assad.
The details shed light on the sensitive and often secretive efforts to free hostages held by the US adversaries, a process that yielded high-profile successes for former President Donald Trump but also dead ends. It’s unclear how aggressively the new Biden administration will advance the efforts to free Tice and other Americans held around the world, particularly when demands at a negotiating table clash with the White House’s broader foreign policy goals.
The August meeting in Damascus represented the highest-level talks in years between the US and the Assad government.