US envoy laments lack of coordinated Western strategy on Iran ‘hostage-taking’

Robert Malley sees need for a common policy on dealing with detention of foreigners as ‘bargaining chips,’ but notes many countries handle matter with Iranians individually

US special envoy to Iran, Robert Malley in Vienna, Austria, June 20, 2021. (Florian Schroetter/AP)
US special envoy to Iran, Robert Malley in Vienna, Austria, June 20, 2021. (Florian Schroetter/AP)

PARIS, France — Western countries have no coordinated strategy on how to bring home nationals held by Iranian authorities in a policy of “hostage-taking,” the US envoy for Iran Robert Malley said in Paris on Monday.

Activists believe some two dozen Westerners are currently being held by Iran in what they allege is a strategy of hostage-taking aimed at extracting money or the release of Iranian prisoners from the West.

The issue of foreign detainees in Iran is “a tragedy shared by the United States, Europe, and other countries around the world,” Malley told reporters, speaking in French.

“Obviously, it would be good if we had a common policy… not only for Iran but all the countries which practice hostage-taking as a bargaining chip and for political reasons,” he said.

“This is not the case at the moment and it is true that many countries are dealing individually with Iran,” Malley added.

“I hope that one day, hopefully in the not too distant future, we agree on a coordinated response. This really needs to stop,” Malley said.

He was speaking after two months of unprecedented anti-regime protests in Iran which have further strained ties between Tehran and the West and risk limiting the scope for diplomacy with the Islamic republic.

Malley said there were three American “hostages” and the US wanted to bring them back “as soon as possible.”

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna had revealed over the weekend that seven French nationals are being held in Iran.

The protests sweeping Iran have been characterized by French President Emmanuel Macron as a “revolution,” but Malley replied cautiously that “it is not my role to find the term to characterize what is happening in Iran.”

“There is a popular movement, deep, persistent, courageous, which does not seem to be weakening. On the other side, there is a regime which uses brutal violence which we condemn, which we sanction.”

“This page of Iranian history, will be written by the Iranians themselves. It will not be written in Washington or Brussels or Paris or London,” he said.

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