In a statement Thursday, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) confirmed that Australians Mark Firkin and Jolie King were being held in Iran.
On Thursday, a source with knowledge of the situation said the pair were arrested in July, accused of taking illegal photos with a drone.
In a statement released by DFAT Thursday, the couple’s families said they hoped to see the pair “safely home as soon as possible.” DFAT is providing consular assistance to the couple’s families.
In a statement, a DFAT spokesperson urged Australian citizens and holders of dual nationality with Australia who are traveling to or through Iran to follow the government’s latest travel advice.
Britain’s Foreign Office wouldn’t confirm the ABC report, but said in a statement that UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had met Iran’s ambassador on Wednesday and “raised serious concerns about the number of dual national citizens detained by Iran and their conditions of detention.”
The detentions come amid tensions between Iran and United States and its allies, including Australia and the UK.
Washington has attempted to use what it calls “maximum pressure” to change Iran’s behavior and limit its nuclear ambitions since the decision by US President Donald Trump in 2018 to abandon the Iran nuclear deal.
Earlier this year, tensions between the US and Iran soared to levels that prompted fears of a war. Oil prices jumped as investors feared that attacks on oil tankers risked a disruption of shipments in the Strait of Hormuz, which passes by Iran and is the most important place on the planet to the global supply of oil.
Australia and the United Kingdom have also become involved in the tensions. Last month, Australia agreed to work alongside the US and the United Kingdom on a maritime security mission in the Strait of Hormuz.
On Wednesday, the UK’s former Middle East minister Alistair Burt described the detentions as a “hostage-taking” during an interview with BBC’s Radio 4.
“The policy of effectively taking hostages, and that’s how it looks, makes it very difficult for those who want a different relationship with Iran to get on the front foot with those who regard it as unremittingly hostile,” Burt added.
During an interview with Sky News Wednesday, UK business minister Andrea Leadsom added that reports of the detentions sound “extremely concerning.”
CNN’s Matt Egan and Hilary McGann contributed to this report.