Announcing the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs

29 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Obama Appoints First Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs.

The United States named a senior envoy Friday to work for the safe return of hostages after criticism of its response to the kidnap and murder of Americans held in Syria. President Barack Obama appointed a former State Department official to the new position of special envoy for hostage affairs, the White House announced Friday.The position was created in the wake of an administration review of how the U.S. deals with hostage situations overseas, an issue that grew especially heated after the Islamic State beheaded American captives.

One year ago journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff were killed by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, triggering critical debate over Washington’s handling of the crises. Concerns about the actions of U.S. officials — including claims that families of hostages were threatened with prosecution if they tried to pay ransoms — led to the review and a number of policy recommendations.

He will report directly to the Secretary of State and work with closely with the newly created Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell to ensure synchronized diplomatic approaches to U.S. hostage recovery. O’Brien served as special presidential envoy for the Balkans during the tumultuous late 1990s, and was a deputy director with the State Department and a senior adviser to Madeline Albright, the State Department said. After Foley’s murder, his family complained the Obama administration had kept them in the dark about developments and had threatened to prosecute them if they sought to pay a ransom.

Parents Diane and John Foley, who have worked on hostage issues and supported hostages’ families since their son’s killing, including in collaboration with the U.S. government, hope O’Brien will save other families from the same heartbreak they suffered. In July, after a policy review, Obama announced the fusion cell and said families would not be threatened with legal action, but reiterated that it remains U.S. policy to make no concessions to kidnappers.

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