Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Mexican Foreign Secretary Alicia Bárcena at a Joint Press Availability

August 10, 2023


Antony J. Blinken

Author's Title: 

Secretary of State

QUESTION:  [...]

Secretary Blinken, I’m going to focus on Iran with you. Has anyone in the U.S. Government had contact today with the five Americans who were imprisoned in Iran and have been moved to house arrest? Can you give us any update as to how they are doing mentally and physically? And then there’s a lot of questions about what is going to happen as part of this deal over the course of the next few weeks here. Iran is saying that there are five prisoners in the U.S. that are going to be released. Can you confirm that that is the case? When will they be released?

There’s also – we’ve reported some conversations about the $6 billion of Iranian funds in South Korea that will potentially move. When will those funds be moving? And why is the United States in a position where it’s willing to give Iran easier access to those funds? And finally, are there any Americans who are still wrongfully detained in Iran, whether they be citizens or legal permanent residents of the U.S.? Thank you.


SECRETARY BLINKEN: Kylie, with regard to the five Americans who are being wrongfully detained in Iran, first, it’s a positive step that they were released from prison and sent to home detention. But this is just the beginning of a process that I hope and expect will lead to their return home to the United States. As you’ve heard me say many times, I have no higher priority than looking out for the security, safety, and well-being of Americans around the world and, in particular, doing everything that we possibly can to bring home those who are being wrongfully detained in a number of countries, including in Iran.

In this case of the five, their detention in prison in many cases predates this administration, so it’s been going on for a long time. One has been incarcerated wrongfully in Iran for eight years. So this is a positive step. But I don’t want to get ahead of its conclusion because there is more work to be done to actually bring them home. My belief is that this is the beginning of the end of their nightmare and the nightmare that their families have experienced. I’m also not going to get into any of the details about what we’re doing or engaged on because I don’t want to jeopardize the completion of this process and the return home of our fellow citizens.

Let me be clear about a couple of things, though: In any event, in any respect, Iran will not be receiving any sanctions relief. And in any instance where we would engage in such efforts to bring Americans home from Iran, Iran’s own funds would be used and transferred to restricted accounts such that the monies can only be used for humanitarian purposes, which, as you know, is permitted under our sanctions. There’s an exemption for humanitarian that’s there from the start.

We will continue to enforce all of our sanctions. We will continue to push back resolutely against Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and beyond, including now in supplying Russia with drones for its war of aggression against Ukraine. And none of these efforts take away from that. These are entirely separate tracks. We focused on getting our people home, but we continue to take strong action against Iran’s other activities that we and so many other countries profoundly object to.

The State Department has been in contact with the five Americans. We spoke to them today. I think they’re, needless to say, very happy to be out of prison, but we want to make sure that we complete this process and bring them home to their families. I’ve spent a fair bit of time with the families over the last two and a half years. I know what this has meant to them: the separation from their loved ones, the questions every single day about their well-being, and the unanswered questions about when they’ll come home. Well, now, we’re on a track to do that, but we need to finish this process.

QUESTION: Any Americans still in Iranian prison?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: I’m not aware of anyone beyond the five that we’re talking about.

QUESTION: No U.S. permanent residents?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Again, I’m not – I’m not aware of any beyond the five of – American citizens.