Mar 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump calls for Austin Tice to be released from Syria

President Trump called on the Syrian government to release American journalist Austin Tice during a White House press conference on Thursday.

What Trump's saying: "Recovering Americans held captive and imprisoned abroad continues to be a top priority for my administration. We have one young gentleman Austin Tice, and we are working very hard with Syria to get him out. We hope the Syrian government will do that. ... Syria, please work with us, and we would appreciate you letting him out."

  • "If you think about what we've done, we've gotten rid of the ISIS caliphate in Syria. We've done a lot for Syria. ... It would be very much appreciated if they would let Austin Tice out immediately."

Context: Tice, a Marine Corps veteran from Texas, left for Syria in 2012 to work as a freelance photojournalist in the midst of the Syrian civil war. He was believed to be detained three days before his 31st birthday and has been missing since. The FBI speculates that Tice was kidnapped while reporting in a suburb outside of Damascus.

Go deeper: Journalist Austin Tice thought to be alive six years after kidnapping

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Why it matters: The actual number of cases in Syria is likely far higher, especially considering its proximity to Iran — the site of one of the worst outbreaks in the world. Syria faces unique challenges in attempting to curb the spread of the virus, with the country having been ravaged by a civil war for the past nine years.

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Driving the news: Turkey launched an offensive against Syrian government troops after at least 36 of its soldiers were killed in an airstrike last Thursday. It shot down two Syrian aircraft and claims to have killed hundreds of Syrian forces.

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Turkey and Russia agree to ceasefire in Idlib

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in a press conference Thursday that the two countries had agreed to a ceasefire in the northwestern Syrian region of Idlib.

Why it matters: A brutal offensive by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his Russian patrons has forced more than 1 million civilians to flee toward the Turkish border, infuriating Erdogan and bringing Turkey to the brink of direct military conflict with Russia. The ceasefire, which is set to go into effect at midnight, is aimed at cooling geopolitical tensions and halting what is already a massive humanitarian crisis.

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