On Sunday, US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, Washington’s leading negotiator in the nuclear negotiations, told that the US is unlikely to strike a deal with Iran to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal unless Tehran releases four US citizens Washington says it is holding hostage.
During his statement, Malley repeated the long-held US position that the issue of the four people held in Iran is separate from the nuclear negotiations. However, he further stated that their release was a precondition for a nuclear agreement.
Malley said in Vienna, “They are separate and we are pursuing both of them. But, I will say it is very hard for us to imagine getting back into the nuclear deal while four innocent Americans are being held hostage by Iran.”
He added: “So even as we are conducting talks with Iran indirectly on the nuclear file we are conducting, again indirectly, discussions with them to ensure the release of our hostages.”
Mostly being on espionage and security-related charges, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners in recent years.
While Western powers have long demanded that Tehran free their citizens, who they say are political prisoners, rights groups have accused Iran of taking prisoners to gain diplomatic leverage.
Tehran denies holding people for political reasons.