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Towards a prisoner exchange between Washington and Tehran

Towards a prisoner exchange between Washington and Tehran

$6 billion worth of frozen Iranian funds have been transferred through Qatar, paving the way for a prisoner swap between the United States and the Islamic Republic, sources familiar with the matter said on Monday.

“A flight from Qatar is already in Iran to evacuate five US citizens (detained in the country) and two of their relatives to Doha,” said the Doha-based source, who requested anonymity.

“It was reported that six billion dollars were transferred from Switzerland to bank accounts in Qatar by Iranians and Americans,” he added.

The transfer of funds is yet to be confirmed by the US.

The five Americans are to be exchanged for five Iranians detained in the US under the terms of a deal brokered by Doha, which maintains cordial relations with the two Gulf emirates.

An Iranian diplomatic spokesman said his country hoped the prisoner exchange would take place on Monday after South Korea confirmed the release of six billion dollars in Iranian funds.

Nasser Khanani indicated at a press conference in Tehran that “we will confirm today that everyone has been paid” for the released assets and that “the exchange of prisoners will take place on the same day”.

As Iran and the US do not have formal diplomatic relations, the exchange will take place in Qatar.

“Five Iranian prisoners will be released, and in exchange, five American citizens imprisoned in Iran will be handed over to the US side at their request,” Kanani said.


Of the freed Iranians, “two will return to Iran, another will go to a third country where his family lives, and the last two will stay in the United States,” he says.

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The arrangement was announced on August 10 as part of an agreement between Tehran and Washington.

Five Americans detained in Iran were transferred from their prison in August to be placed under house arrest before being transferred to Qatar.

Among them is businessman Siamak Namasi, who was arrested in 2015 and sentenced to ten years in prison in 2016 for espionage.

Among the five Iranians to be freed by the United States are Reza Sarhangpour and Gambis Attar Kashani, who were accused of “derailing U.S. sanctions” against Iran.

In the eyes of some experts, the agreement was concluded after very discreet negotiations, demonstrating the easing of tensions between Iran and the United States, but they did not foreshadow a possible agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue.

European-led talks to renew the 2015 Iran nuclear deal failed in 2022 and have been in limbo since the United States unilaterally pulled out under Donald Trump’s presidency in 2018.

“Strict Surveillance”

Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi is expected to attend the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday.

On September 13, the White House rejected any notion of a “rescue” by releasing six billion dollars in frozen Iranian funds over Republican opposition to President Joe Biden.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stressed that this was not a “blank check” issued to Iran and that any use of the funds for “humanitarian purposes” would be subject to “strict supervision.” These funds were blocked from selling Iran hydrocarbons following US sanctions.

Tehran, for its part, promised that the envelope could be used in other ways, not just to buy medicine and food.

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After the tariffs, Mr. Kanani said. “In Japan, we had a certain amount, but we used a lot of it, and the rest was not significant,” he said.

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