Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says Iran believes everything is ready for an exchange.
Tehran, Iran – Iran’s foreign minister has indicated that a prisoner exchange with the United States could take place shortly after an initial agreement is reached on the long-standing issue.
“We have reached an agreement in recent days and if all goes well on the American side, I think we will soon witness a prisoner exchange,” Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in an interview with state television on Sunday.
“During indirect talks in March last year, an agreement was signed between us and the US side, but the grounds for its implementation have now been prepared. As far as we are concerned, everything is ready. The American side is in the process of finalizing its own technical coordination.”
The top diplomat’s comments come as his deputy, Ali Bagheri Kani, who is also the country’s chief nuclear negotiator, has traveled to Oman – which has acted as a mediator between Tehran and Washington in prisoner exchange talks.
In October, 85-year-old Iranian-American Baquer Namazi left Iran aboard a Royal Air Force of Oman fighter jet after Tehran decided to release him due to ill health.
His son, Siamak Namazi, is one of three known American prisoners left behind bars in Iran, where all have been arrested on espionage charges.
Earlier this week, Namazi had an interview with US outlet CNN from Tehran’s Evin Prison, and directly pleaded with US President Joe Biden to secure his release, along with those of 58-year-old businessman Emad Sharghi and the 67 year-old environmental activist Morad Tahbaz – who is also a British national.
“I remain deeply concerned that the White House simply does not realize how dire our situation has become,” he said.
Namazi, who has been imprisoned for more than seven years, had written a similar letter to Biden and went on a week-long hunger strike in January to appeal a prisoner exchange deal.
Neither side has confirmed details of a possible deal, but it is believed that in addition to the release of an unknown number of Iranian prisoners in the US, $7 billion in Iranian money frozen by South Korea due to US sanctions.
The swap deal was previously tied to now-stalled talks to restore Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers — a pact Washington unilaterally gave up in 2018.
Iran has repeatedly blamed the US for a delay in both the prisoner exchange and nuclear deal talks, something Washington has rejected.
Amir-Abdollahian said on Sunday that Iran believes an agreement on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear deal is formally known, is “within reach,” but Tehran wants ongoing issues with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) . resolved as a “red line” that he will not cross.
The US has maintained that nuclear talks are not a priority right now as it accuses Tehran of supplying Russia with armed drones for the war in Ukraine, and has denounced Iranian officials for cracking down on nationwide protests that began in September.