On March 30, the State Department denied reports from a French newspaper that Austin Tice — an American journalist, and Marine veteran who went missing in Syria in August 2012 — was seen in captivity. The paper, Le Figaro, reported on March 20 that a go-between for the Syrian and U.S. governments had seen Tice in captivity.

“We have been in periodic, direct contact with Syrian government officials strictly on consular issues, including the case of Austin Tice,” said a State Department official, according to Hannah Allam of McClatchy. “For privacy and security reasons, we cannot provide additional details.”

What is significant is the acknowledgement that the department has engaged in talks with the Syrian government, given the shaky relationship between the two countries.