U.S. will not change Syria policy to win release of Americans – Pompeo

Washington (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said the United States will not change policy toward Syria to obtain the release of U.S. journalist Austin Tice and other detained Americans.

“Our ask is that the Syrians release Mr. Tice, tell us what they know. They have chosen not to do that,” Pompeo told a State Department news conference. “We’ll continue to work for the return not only of Austin, but for every American that’s held. We’re not going to change American policy to do that.”

Pompeo’s comments follow the disclosure that the top White House counterterrorism official secretly traveled to Damascus earlier this year seeking the release of Tice, a freelance journalist who disappeared in 2012, and Majd Kamalmaz, an American psychotherapist missing since 2017.

Pompeo did not directly address the Damascus visit when he was asked about it and whether the United States is prepared to withdraw some 600 U.S. troops from Syria in return for the return of Tice and other Americans.

“The president has said clearly we don’t pay for the return of hostages,” Pompeo responded. “We work to make the case that they need to get these people returned.”

The U.S. troops are deployed in northern Syria as part of an international coalition fighting the remnants of Islamic State. They also are guarding oil fields in the region.