Iran, US reportedly reach deal to swap prisoners

Iran has reached an agreement with the United States to swap prisoners, according to the country's foreign minister on Sunday.

Speaking to the state broadcaster, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the deal was clinched recently between the two sides, ending year-long efforts marked by multiple interruptions.

"Regarding the issue of the exchange of prisoners between Iran and the US, we have reached an agreement in recent days,' he said.

'If everything goes well' on the American side, the swap will happen 'in a short period', he added.

The top diplomat said 'everything is ready' on the Iranian side but the American side is currently engaged in a 'final technical review' to go ahead with the swap of prisoners.

A document on the swap, he noted, was 'indirectly signed and approved' by the two countries in March last year, but the 'basis of its implementation' has been prepared now.

The issue of prisoners has been one of the key sticking points in Vienna nuclear talks, with Tehran repeatedly asking Washington to not tie the issue with the nuclear deal.

In February 2022, Iran's foreign minister said Tehran was ready for an immediate prisoner swap but alleged that Washington 'ruined the deal', calling it a 'humanitarian' issue.

His remarks came after US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley in a tweet linked the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal to the exchange of prisoners between the two sides.

The Biden administration has repeatedly called for the release of dual nationals detained in Iran over spying charges, including Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz.

Namazi is an Iranian-American businessman who has been jailed in Iran since 2015. Shargi, also an Iranian-American businessman, has been in Iranian jail since 2018. Tahbaz, an Iranian-American environmentalist who also holds a British passport, was jailed in early 2018.

Iran, for its part, has also demanded the release of dozens of its nationals imprisoned in the US, including some Iranian-American dual nationals, mainly for bypassing US sanctions.

In October last year, the two sides said they held "intensive talks" mediated by a regional country regarding the prisoner swap and release of Iran's frozen assets in South Korea.

It came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a Twitter post said his country "will never stop working until all US nationals held hostage or wrongfully detained around the world are home".

Last month, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanani said the deal was on the verge of being clinched through intermediaries at an unannounced time, 'but the US showed bad faith'.

His remarks followed a report by NBC News that said the two sides were holding indirect talks to seal the much-delayed deal, with Qatar and the UK acting as intermediaries.

While the prisoners' swap deal has finally made headway, there has been no comment so far on whether Iran's assets frozen abroad, including in South Korea, would be released.

Source: Anadolu Agency