The parents of American journalist Austin Tice left a meeting with President Biden this week feeling hopeful of the efforts to bring their son home – nearly 10 years after he was abducted in Syria.
Debra and Marc Tice met with the president on Monday evening, just days after Biden surprisingly brought attention to their son’s case at Saturday’s White House Correspondents Dinner.
“Mom, I’d like to meet you and Dad to talk about your son,” the president said during his remarks.
At the time, Debra Tice was reportedly caught off guard by Biden’s suggestion, and wasn’t sure she had heard the president correctly until the potential meeting was confirmed by White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer, according to Axios.
Following the 45-minute meeting, the Tices described Biden as personable, compassionate and completely aware of their son’s case, the outlet reported.
“He told us that he had contacted people from past administrations that knew about Austin’s case to get up to speed and ask them questions about what they thought could be done,” Marc Tice said.
He revealed one of the efforts is to push for engagement between the US and Syria.
“This is something that will probably take some time to make happen, but we have to take those first steps,” Austin’s father said. “And the president has indicated he was completely supportive and committed to doing so.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that commitment in a readout of the meeting on Monday, saying Biden told the couple “his administration will work relentlessly until Austin and other Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained worldwide are safely at home with their loved ones.”
“Today’s meeting built on multiple meetings and conversations between the Tice family and the President’s national security team, which will remain in regular contact with the Tices and other families of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad,” Psaki continued. “We appreciate the bravery and candor of families enduring these harrowing experiences, and we remain committed to supporting them and, most importantly, reuniting them with their loved ones.”
Marc Tice told CNN he believed Monday’s meeting could launch a “real sea change,” noting that “when the President is behind something, the rest of the system falls in step and makes things happen.”
“Knowing that Biden supports the efforts and wants the same things we want gives them license to pursue these things without worrying about repercussions or making a misstep,” he also told Axios.
US officials are moving towards taking strong action in Austin Tice’s case that might have been considered too risky before, according to the outlet.
Direct US-Syrian engagement has been rare in recent years and could still prove to be difficult as the nation “repeatedly made clear” they won’t negotiate in the case, according to the report.
Still, Austin Tice’s parents appear hopeful.
“I left the meeting thinking those were hugely uplifting words. I can hardly wait to see some action,” his mother said. “We’ve had lots and lots of words in the past nine years and almost nine months. We need action.”