NEW YORK - Secretary of State John Kerry met on Saturday with the Iranian foreign minister, vowing beforehand, "You can count on the fact we will have a discussion" on Americans imprisoned in Iran.
In brief remarks to reporters ahead of the meeting with Mohammad Javad Zarif during the U.N. General Assembly, Kerry indicated he would raise the fate of the Washington Post's Tehran correspondent, Jason Rezaian, and two other Iranian Americans who are serving prison terms in Iran. Rezaian, 39, has been detained for more than 14 months, and is awaiting a verdict following the apparent conclusion of his secret trial on espionage and related charges. Saeed Abedini, a pastor from Idaho, and Amir Hekmati, a former Marine from Flint, Mich., are serving lengthy prison sentences.
"We always talk about American citizens with respect to their detainment in any part of the world," Kerry said.
In recent weeks, Iranian officials have raised the prospect of a prisoner exchange involving the three Americans in Iran and 19 Iranians who Tehran says are being held in U.S. prisons, largely on convictions for sanctions violations.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told reporters in an invitation-only meeting in New York on Friday that he could explore ways to "move the legal files forward" in Iran, aiming for a prison release in both countries.
Kerry's meeting with Zarif, with whom he personally negotiated the Iran nuclear agreement finalized in July, was the first of more than three dozen meetings he has scheduled with his foreign counterparts during the U.N. General Assembly in the coming week. Kerry has said the American prisoners were last thing he mentioned to Zarif before they announced the nuclear deal.
He and Zarif also are expected to discuss the steps needed to implement the deal, which eases sanctions in exchange for limitations on Iran's nuclear program.