Swiss diplomats were allowed on Tuesday to visit three American tourists detained in Iran on charges of illegal entry, according to the Swiss Foreign Ministry.
The three Americans were arrested in late July after they strayed accidentally into Iranian territory while trekking in the mountains in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region that borders Iran.
The three Americans being detained in Iran are Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd. Since their arrest by Iranian security forces in July, their families have had no contact with them.
In an interview on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly earlier this month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had said that he would ask the country’s judiciary to expedite the process and to “look at the case with maximum leniency.”
The Swiss government currently represents U.S. interests in Iran, as Washington had severed diplomatic relations with Tehran in 1980, following the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Relations between the two countries have deteriorated further over differences on Iran’s disputed nuclear program. Though Iran insists that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful civilian power production purposes, the West suspects it just a cover up for the Islamic country’s nuclear weapon ambitions.
The Iranian move to allow Swiss diplomats to meet the detained American hikers comes just two days before a high-profile meeting between Iran and the six world powers seeking to persuade Iran to abandon its disputed nuclear program.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley welcomed the Iranian move, but added that it was hard to say whether it was connected to the upcoming nuclear talks in Geneva on 1st October. He said that it is not clear if the detained Americans will now be allowed to contact their families.