US held indirect talks with Iranian officials in Oman earlier this year amid tensions in Middle East

US officials held indirect talks with Iranian officials in Oman in January amid rising tensions in the Middle East, according to a US official familiar with the matter.

The meetings marked the first known engagement between the US and Iran since the prisoner swap between the two countries in September, which was the result of years of painstaking indirect negotiations.

The White House’s Middle East adviser Brett McGurk and the Biden administration’s top official for Iran Abram Paley shared messages with the Iranian officials through Omani interlockers, the source said. They were all in the same building, the source said.

The talks covered a range of issues, including Iran’s nuclear program and Houthi attacks on US ships in the Red Sea.

In recent months the US has carried out air strikes on Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Iraq as well as the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen in attempt to deter attacks in the region.

While possible further engagements were discussed, the two sides have not moved ahead with a second meeting, the source said.

The Financial Times first reported on the talks.

The State Department declined to comment on the specific engagements in Oman.

“We have many channels for passing messages to Iran,” a State Department spokesperson told CNN. “We aren’t going to comment on any details of our communications with Iran, other than to say that since October 7th all of them have been focused on raising the full range of threats emanating from Iran and the need for Iran to cease its across-the-board escalation.”

The White House National Security Council declined to comment.

CNN reported in January that there was indirect backchanneling to Iran to try to deter a wider conflict in the Middle East as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was traveling in the region.

The top US diplomat intended to make clear to the leaders with whom he met that the US does not want to see the conflict escalate nor do they intend to escalate it.

Efforts to backchannel with Iran – through partners as well as competitors like China –had been happening since the early days of the war in Gaza as the US sought to stem a regional conflagration.

CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

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