US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing on February 4, 2021, in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Sunday that the United States has started speaking with Iran over detained Americans.
“We have begun to communicate with the Iranians on this issue, yes. And we will continue to do so as we go forward,” Sullivan said of the five known American hostages.
“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,” he told CBS on its “Face the Nation” program, adding “It will be a significant priority of this administration to get those Americans safely back home.”
When asked for an update on the nuclear talks between Washington and Tehran, Sullivan said that “the ball is in their court.”
Sullivan said that President Joe Biden remains intent on preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and believes the best way to do that is through “clear-eyed diplomacy.”
“He’s prepared to go to the table to talk to the Iranians about how we get strict constraints back on their nuclear program. That offer still stands because we believe diplomacy is the best way to do it. Iran has not yet responded,” Sullivan said.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran escalated following former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark nuclear agreement.
Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, pauses whilst speaking during a news conference in Tehran, Iran, on Monday, Oct. 14, 2019.
Bloomberg | Getty Images
The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, brokered by the Obama administration, lifted sanctions on Iran that had crippled its economy and cut its oil exports roughly in half. In exchange for sanctions relief, Iran accepted limits on its nuclear program until the terms expire in 2025.
The U.S. and its European allies believe Iran has ambitions to develop a nuclear bomb. Tehran has denied that allegation.
Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA in 2018, calling it the “worst deal ever.”
Following Washington’s exit from the landmark nuclear deal, other signatories of the pact — France, Germany, the U.K., Russia and China — tried to keep the agreement alive.
Tehran has refused to negotiate while U.S. sanctions remain in place.