Iran has notified the Swiss government that it can have access to three Americans who have been detained in Iran since being arrested for illegal entry in late July, FOX News confirmed.
"Our goal is to ensure the safe return of all our missing and unjustly detained American citizens to the United States as quickly as possible so that they can be reunited with their families," a U.S. official told FOX News.
"We would welcome a decision by the Iranian government to grant consular access to Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, following our repeated requests."
The move could be seen as a conciliatory gesture on Iran's part, coming ahead of a meeting between Iran and five world powers seeking to persuade Tehran to abandon any effort to build nuclear weapons. The Swiss government represents U.S. interests in Tehran.
Two U.S. officials said Iran had notified the Swiss that their consular services are required, meaning they can meet with the Americans to verify their condition. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the matter.
The Swiss government represents U.S. interests in Tehran, since the United States has no formal diplomatic relations with the Islamic republic.
Since the Americans' arrest, their families have had no contact with them and no information other than the fact of their detention.
On Sept. 22, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in New York City to speak to the United Nations General Assembly, said in an Associated Press interview that he would ask the country's judiciary to expedite the process and to "look at the case with maximum leniency."
His remark sparked hope among the hikers' families that they might be released and allowed to return home.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.