DOHA: Five former American detainees in Iran released under a prisoner exchange agreement with Washington, with Qatari mediationis now on its way to the United States.
The former detainees and two of their family members had left Iran to land on the tarmac of Doha international airport at around 14:40 GMT (17:40 local time) before leaving “for Washington DC”, AFP sources close to the matter said.
In Washington, the White House confirmed that the former prisoners and their family members had indeed left Doha by plane to return to American soil.
The White House said President Joe Biden had an “emotional” conversation with the families of seven Americans who left Iran on Monday.
In New York, American diplomacy chief Antony Blinken said he spoke with the freed Americans after they arrived in Doha, where they were greeted on the tarmac with hugs, recalling the “moving” conversation.
“I spoke with them when they landed in Doha. I can tell you that for them, for me, this was a moving conversation,” he said, adding that it was “very gratifying to be able to say that our fellow citizens are now free.
Previously, the transfer of frozen Iranian funds in South Korea amounting to six billion dollars was announced in Doha and confirmed by Iran.
The transfer is part of the agreement, which also provides for the release of five Iranian prisoners by the United States. Two of them, who received pardon, also arrived in Doha on Monday, to return to Iran, Iranian media reported on Monday.
Three other former detainees who were freed did not want to go to Iran.
Transfer funds to six Iranian accounts at two banks in Qatar was implemented on Monday.
“Today, an amount equivalent to 5,573,492,000 euros was deposited into Iranian bank accounts in two Qatari banks,” said Mohammadreza Farzin, governor of the Central Bank of Iran, in Tehran.
This arrangement was announced on August 10 and five Americans of Iranian origin, detained in Iran, were transferred from their prisons in August to house arrest.
Among them is businessman Siamak Namazi, arrested in 2015 and sentenced to ten years in prison in 2016 for espionage. “Thank you President (Joe) Biden for putting human life above politics,” he said in a statement.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also welcomed the release of the prisoners, one of whom, Morad Tahbaz, is also a British citizen.
Iran “must stop using foreign nationals as bargaining chips,” Sunak said in a statement.
Among the five Iranians to be released by the United States are Reza Sarhangpour and Kambiz Attar Kashani, who are accused of “diverting American sanctions” against Iran.
In the eyes of some experts, this agreement shows a reduction in tensions between Iran and the United States, but does not rule out the possibility of reaching an agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue.
The UN Secretary-General’s spokesman hoped on Monday that this would lead to “greater cooperation and reduced tensions” between the two countries that no longer have diplomatic relations.
But while welcoming the agreement, Washington wants to temper expectations.
“This process, the commitment necessary to free unreasonably detained Americans, has always been divorced from our commitments, or lack thereof, with Iran” on nuclear power, Blinken stressed, leaving no new discussions, even indirect ones, such as which are expected. soon.
Negotiations led by European countries have failed in 2022 to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which has been moribund since the United States’ unilateral withdrawal in 2018 under Donald Trump.
The prisoner exchange occurred on the same day that Iranian President Ebrahim Raïssi was expected to be in New York to participate in the UN General Assembly.
Coincidentally or coincidentally, the Biden administration, criticized by opposition Republicans who described the exchange as a “ransom,” announced sanctions on Monday against Iran’s intelligence ministry and former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And the American president vowed Monday to “continue to sanction Iran for its provocative actions in the region.”
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stressed that this was not a “blank check” being offered to Iran and that the use of these funds “for humanitarian purposes” would only come under “strict scrutiny.” From hydrocarbon sales by Iran, the funds are blocked following American sanctions.
Tehran, for its part, assured that it has the possibility to use these funds in other ways and not just to buy medicine and food.
After these payments, Iran no longer has “many resources blocked in other countries”, Iranian diplomatic spokesman Nasser Kanani said on Monday.
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