DUBAI (Reuters) – Any communication between Tehran and Washington about US citizens detained in Iran has been made through the Swiss embassy which deals with US interests rather than through direct contact, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry said on Sunday.
Saeed Khatibzadeh was responding to statements on Sunday by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who said the United States had begun communicating with Iran over Tehran’s detention of US citizens.
“This news is not true as stated and there is no direct dialogue between Iran and the United States in any field,” said Khatibzadeh, according to the ISNA Student News Agency.
Earlier a news site quoted an unnamed source as saying: “The Iranian government has not discussed American detainees with Washington. All messages have been exchanged through the Swiss embassy in Tehran. “
Switzerland represents US interests in Iran because Washington and Tehran do not have diplomatic relations.
“Our priority is the release of Iranian prisoners in the United States,” said Khatibzadeh.
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners in recent years, mostly on espionage charges. Human rights activists accuse Iran of using them as bargaining chips, something Tehran denies.
Tehran has repeatedly said it is ready for a full prisoner exchange with the United States. It said Iranians detained in the United States, mostly for violating sanctions, were detained unfairly.
Written by Parisa Hafezi; Edited by Edmund Blair and Frances Kerry
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