Iran ready to implement prisoner swap deal with US, official says

Under the Qatar-mediated deal, five prisoners would be freed by each side and $6bn in Iranian assets would be released.

A person walks by mural showing Siamak Namazi
People familiar with negotiations said they expect the detainees will be released as early as next week [File: Patrick Semansky/AP Photo]

Iran’s foreign minister has said his country is ready to implement a Qatar-mediated deal with the United States, under which Washington and Tehran each would free five prisoners and $6bn in Iranian assets held in South Korea would be released.

The broad outlines of the US-Iran deal under which US citizens detained by Iran would be allowed to leave in exchange for the transfer of the funds to banks in Qatar and the release of five Iranians held in the United States were made public on August 10.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, in a telephone conversation with his Qatari counterpart on Thursday, praised Doha’s constructive role during months of negotiations that resulted in clinching the pact, Iranian state media reported.

Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, said the process of wiring the Islamic Republic’s unfrozen funds to Qatari banks will be completed as early as next week, Iranian media reported.

Washington has waived sanctions to allow the transfer of $6bn in Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar, which will monitor how Iran’s clerical rulers will spend the funds to purchase humanitarian goods.

The waiver drew criticism from Republicans and others who say the deal will improve the Iranian economy at a time when that country poses a growing threat to US troops and allies in the region.

Earlier this week on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said: “It’s ridiculous for US to be blackmailed into paying $6B for hostages which will help indirectly finance the number 1 foreign policy of Iran: terrorism.”

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, meanwhile, accused Biden of “paying ransom to the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism”.

People familiar with negotiations said they expect the detainees will be released as early as next week.

The American prisoners include Siamak Namazi, who was detained in 2015 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison on internationally criticised spying charges; Emad Shargi, a venture capitalist sentenced to 10 years; and Morad Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent who was arrested in 2018 and also received a 10-year sentence. The fourth and fifth prisoners were not identified.

On Monday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson said the deal was expected to be carried out in the coming days.

Source: News Agencies