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Biden administration revives efforts to secure release of Austin Tice, other hostages

“I am always hopeful that today is the day my son will call and say I am on the way home,” Debra Tice told Al Arabiya English

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The case of missing American journalist Austin Tice has drawn the attention of the Biden administration a little over a year since the US president took office.

In a promising sign of renewed US focus, President Joe Biden met with Tice’s parents earlier this month at the White House after Tice’s case was publicly raised during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

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Sources have previously told Al Arabiya English that Biden's special envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carstens, also visited Lebanon at the end of March to discuss the file of US hostages.

In an interview with Al Arabiya on Tuesday, Lebanon’s top intel chief, Abbas Ibrahim, said he was in Washington to discuss mediation efforts between the US and Syria over six US hostages believed to be in Syria. Ibrahim has helped secure the release of several missing or kidnapped Western citizens in recent years.

One of the most high-profile cases of missing Americans has been Austin Tice, who was kidnapped by the Syrian regime in 2012.

Ibrahim did not elaborate on Tice’s case or any of the other five hostages, but he also met with Carstens, CIA chief Bill Burns and White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk.

But Tice’s mother spoke to Al Arabiya English on Tuesday on the sidelines of a gathering with the Lebanese security official in Washington.

Asked if she was more optimistic after meeting Biden, Debra Tice said: “I am always hopeful that today is the day my son will call and say I am on the way home.” She also praised Ibrahim as being respected and “successful in bringing people home.”

As for updates or new developments on the case of Tice, she said the most important thing was that “there is complete silence.”

“There hasn’t been any kind of whisper, and that’s not uncommon. It doesn’t concern me. Although, I would love to be able to have dinner with him immediately,” she added.

The Lebanese official, Ibrahim, said he believed there was an opportunity in Washington and Damascus to reach a deal. “Both sides [Syria and the US] don’t oppose mediation efforts to solve this,” he said.

Ibrahim also revealed that a deal for US hostages was close to being sealed under the Trump administration, but they were paused after the US presidential elections and transition. “I believe we need to restart from where we ended the talks last time,” Ibrahim said.

Read more: Biden meets with parents of reporter who went missing in Syria

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