Washington in Talks With Iran Over Detained Americans, Biden's National Security Adviser Says

Iranian website affiliated with Tehran's national security council says any contact with Washington on the matter has been conducted via the Swiss embassy, rather than through direct talks

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White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan delivers remarks during a press briefing inside the White House in Washington, U.S., earlier this month.
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan delivers remarks during a press briefing inside the White House in Washington, U.S., earlier this month. Credit: TOM BRENNER/ REUTERS

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday that Washington has begun to communicate with Tehran regarding U.S. prisoners held in Iran.

Sullivan, who was interviewed by CBS News, did not elaborate on the details beyond the fact that contact has been made between the two countries.

"We intend to very directly communicate with the Iranians about the complete and utter outrage, the humanitarian catastrophe that is the unjust, unlawful detention of American citizens in Iran," Sullivan said, before being asked by "Face of the Nation" host Margaret Brennan as to whether the White House has done so yet.

"We have begun to communicate with the Iranians on this issue, yes," he replied. "Our strong message to the Iranians will be that we will not accept a long-term proposition where they continue to hold Americans in an unjust and unlawful manner. It will be a significant priority of this administration to get these Americans safely back home."

An Iranian news website reported Sunday that any communication between Tehran and Washington about U.S. citizens detained in Iran has been conducted via the Swiss embassy, which handles U.S. interests, rather than through any direct contact. 

"Iran's government has not discussed American prisoners with Washington. All messages have been exchanged through the Swiss embassy in Tehran," an unnamed source told the website, which is affiliated to Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Iran because Washington and Tehran have no diplomatic ties.

In an NBC News interview with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this month, Blinken called on Tehran to free Americans imprisoned in its territory regardless of the United States' return to the nuclear deal.   

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