Freelance American reporter Austin Tice was abducted in Daraya, Syria, on Aug. 13, 2012. Photo courtesy of FBI/Website
May 3 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Monday met with the parents of Austin Tice, an American journalist and Marine Corps veteran who was abducted nearly a decade ago in Syria, the White House said.
The meeting was arranged after Tice's case garnered renewed attention over the weekend when his mother, Debra Tice, attended the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner with the president on hand who said he wanted to meet her and her husband, Marc.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that Biden had met with Tices on Monday for a meeting in which the president "reiterated his commitment to continue to work through all available avenues to secure Austin's long overdue return to his family."
"The president further emphasized that his administration will work relentlessly until Austin and other Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained worldwide are safely at home with their loved ones," she said.
She added that the meeting was built upon previous conversations between the president's national security team and the Tice family, and that they will remain in regular contract.
"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," she said.
Austin Tice was in Daraya covering the war in Syria for The Washington Post, CBS and McClatchy newspapers when he was abducted in August 2012.
The Texas native was last seen in video footage published later that year showing him wearing a blindfold while being escorted through brush by armed men.
The renewed attention in Tice's case follows a recent prison swap between the United States and Russia that saw the return of former Marine Trevor Reed who had been held three years by Moscow.
Steven Portnoy, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, remarked upon Reed's release during his organization's annual fundraising dinner that was held Saturday night, stating, "As we take note of Trevor Reed's return, our thoughts tonight are with Austin Tice, and our collective hopes are that after nearly 10 years in captivity he will soon return home safely to his mother, father, his colleagues and his friends."
He also called on Debra Tice, who was in the audience, to stand for acknowledgement, stating her son should be with them that night.
During his own speech that followed, Biden addressed Debra directly, stating, "I'd like to meet you and Dad to talk about your son."
On Monday, the president announced that he was to meet with the Tices later in the day.
Psaki later told reporters during a press briefing that since national security advisor Jake Sullivan met the Tices in December, Biden administration officials have met with the Tice family on three separate occasions, "including a meeting just last week."
"We have been very closely engaged with the family," she said, "and, obviously, meeting with the president is an additional and more significant step in that regard."
Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, told reporters during a separate press briefing that the meeting was "a testament" that reuniting Austin Tice with his family was a priority for the Biden administration.
He did not give additional information concerning Tice's potential whereabouts or about efforts to secure his release, adding that the administration did not share details about its efforts in the case of Reed.
"We do believe that we can best and most effectively achieve potentially successful outcomes if we do have space to conduct private conversations," he said.
The FBI in 2018 offered a $1 million reward for information leading to the return of Austin Tice.