Trump's envoy urges Russia to help free journalist Austin Tice detained in Syria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An Trump administration envoy on Tuesday called on the Syrian ally to Russia to demand the release of Austin Tice, an independent American journalist kidnapped in Syria six years ago.

Robert O'Brien, US President Donald Trump's special envoy for the hostages, said Trump would take the necessary steps to facilitate Tice's freedom if that could help. He did not specify the measures.

"We continue to call the Russians to exert their influence in Syria to bring Austin home," he said. The Syrian government says it does not know where Tice is.

O'Brien came to Trump's defense when asked why the president had not made a public statement about Tice, but had spoken in the cases of Americans detained in Turkey, North Korea and Iran. He said that Trump and his key associates were closely following the case.

At a press conference, O'Brien announced a private donations campaign along with a $ 1 million FBI award for information leading to the freedom of Tice.

Tice was 31 years old when he was kidnapped in August 2012 during a report in Damascus on the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

There has been no news from the public since a video posted online several weeks after his disappearance showed him in the custody of armed men. O'Brien said the US thought Tice was alive, but did not specify the journalist's situation.

Washington refused to identify who, in his view, holds Tice, but sought help from Russia, Assad's main supporter of the civil war, and other countries.

Tice's father, Marc Tice, has announced that he and his wife will travel to Beirut later this year, at least for their seventh trip, to apply for a visa to enter Syria to demand the release of their son.

Report by Jonathan Landay; Edited by Mary Milliken and Howard Goller

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