The United States confirmed on Wednesday that it will persist in its diplomatic efforts to secure the safe return of Americans detained in Iran.
“We have made clear early in this administration … that we have no higher priority than the safe return of Americans who are unjustly detained around the world, and that includes the Americans who are unjustly detained or who are missing in Iran,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“We will continue to make clear to the Iranians that that practice is unacceptable,” said Price when asked by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper if Washington had talked with Iran about human rights abuses and hostage swaps.
“Secretary (Antony) Blinken, of course, issued a very strong message about the state taking of hostages, using people for political pawns. He condemned it. Just as importantly, he condemned it in the context of dozens of other world leaders who made clear that this practice is unacceptable.”
He said Iranian leaders “have no misimpression about where we stand on this issue. It is of paramount importance to us. Just as we pursue a nuclear agreement that provides verifiable and permanent limits on Iran’s nuclear program, we will not – we will persist, we will not desist in our efforts to secure a safe return of Americans who are detained inside Iran.”
He reiterated that Washington’s Iran-related sanctions remain in effect unless and until they are lifted as part of a diplomatic process.
“We will address any efforts at sanction evasion,” he said in reference to China. “Of course, our policy when it comes to sanctions has not changed at the moment.”
"Competition, as you know, does define our relationship with China, but we do have, in some cases, rather narrow areas of tactical alignment," the State Department spokesman told reporters.
"It so happens that Iran is one of them. China has been cooperative in efforts to constrain Iran's nuclear program," he said.
"Beijing, of course, has no interest in seeing Iran develop a nuclear weapon, and the profoundly destabilizing impact that would have in a region upon which China does depend."
China was one of six powers that was part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, under which Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
But former US President Donald Trump trashed the deal.
President Joe Biden has hoped to revive the nuclear agreement, although he insists Iran must return to full compliance before he ends Trump's sanctions.