Former Hostages Call for Expanding Talks with Iran
Washington DC – February 25, 2013– News Release - Ambassador Bruce Laingen, the Chief of Mission held hostage in Iran recalled his words to the senior Iranian hostage taker from the ramp at Mehrabad Airport 32 years ago, “I look forward to the day when your country and mine can again have a normal, diplomatic relationship.”
Academy award-winning “best picture,” Argo, has resurrected American interest in this dark diplomatic episode. Two hostages from the crisis, retired Ambassadors Bruce Laingen and John Limbert, called on the United States and Iran to learn from the lessons of the 1979 crisis rather than be held hostage to the ever-escalating cycle of confrontation that has defined U.S.-Iranian relations for decades. On the eve of the P5+1 talks in which diplomats from the United States and Iran will meet in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the Ambassadors call for broadening the scope of negotiations with Iran beyond the nuclear issue to advance a diplomatic solution.
Ambassador John Limbert, the political officer to Tehran during the 444 day crisis and President Obama’s first Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran warned that confining negotiations with Iran to the nuclear issue is unlikely to yield a breakthrough. “The United States and Iran must open up dialogue on areas where there is political space on both sides to break the cycle of mistrust,” Ambassador Limbert said.
At a press conference hosted by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, Friends Committee on National Legislation and National Iranian American Council, the two senior diplomats warned that the expected stalemate in Almaty should not derail efforts to broaden the diplomatic agenda to address regional security issues and other concerns with Iran through robust and sustained diplomacy.
Ambassador Laingen told reporters and congressional staffers, “I have no illusions about the past abuses of the Iranian regime. With my colleagues, I lived those abuses every day for 444 days. But negotiating with adversaries to advance U.S. interests through a process of mutual compromise is what game-changing diplomacy is all about, and it is how diplomacy can save lives and set people free—as it did for us.”
“We brought these experts together to call for sustained diplomacy. Sadly, both sides have squandered opportunities for effective negotiations,” remarked John Isaacs, executive director of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and Council for a Livable World. “There is still time to win with diplomacy to prevent a counter-productive military strike and a nuclear-armed Iran.”
“Resolving decades of U.S.-Iran tensions and preventing a disastrous war will require flexibility and creativity on both sides. Iran must be prepared to resolve concerns about its nuclear work, the U.S. must prepared to ease sanctions, and both must be ready to engage on a broader agenda beyond the nuclear issue,” said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council.
“When two former diplomats call for a rapprochement between the country they represented and the country that held them hostage, it is a wake-up call for us all about the urgency for sustained and comprehensive talks with Iran, which the Obama administration has not yet fully pursued, ” said Diane Randall, executive secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
Full transcripts of the remarks are available to interested members of the press by contacting James Lewis or Kate Gould.