Reuters: Iranian diplomats made the first consular visit on Saturday to five Iranians who were detained by U.S. forces in northern Iraq in January, Iraq’s foreign minister said, describing it as a positive development. BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iranian diplomats made the first consular visit on Saturday to five Iranians who were detained by U.S. forces in northern Iraq in January, Iraq’s foreign minister said, describing it as a positive development.
The U.S. military says the five are linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and were backing militants in Iraq. Iran has insisted they are diplomats, demanded they be freed and sought access to the men.
“Three Iranian diplomats including the ambassador in Baghdad visited the five detainees in Iraq,” Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters, adding the visit lasted several hours.
Zebari had previously said he hoped the consular visit would help ease tensions between the United States and Iran.
Iraq has been pressing both countries to hold a second round of talks in Baghdad to follow up a landmark meeting in May where senior envoys from the two sides discussed the violence in Iraq.
“This is the first such visit since they were detained. This is a positive development,” Zebari said.
U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad Hassan Kazemi-Qomi met in the Iraqi capital on May 28 to discuss security in Iraq in what was the most high-profile meeting of the two arch enemies in almost three decades.
Both envoys described the talks as positive. Iraq has invited both sides to meet again.
Washington accuses Iran of fomenting violence in Iraq, while Tehran blames the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 for sparking bloodshed that threatens to tear the country apart.
The five detained Iranians have previously been visited by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Iran for its part is holding three U.S.-Iranian citizens on security-related charges.