US shoots down Iranian claims of a prisoner swap agreement and brands it a ‘cruel lie’
- The United States on Sunday quashed claims by Iran that a prisoner swap agreement was close to fruition
- Earlier, the Iranian Foreign Minister said on state television that a prisoner swap arrangement between the US and Iran was essentially agreed
- Talks between Iran and the Biden administration remain stalled over reentering the 2015 nuclear agreement
The United States State Department has shot down claims by Iranian foreign officials that the two countries have reached a prisoner exchange agreement.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian claimed during a Sunday appearance on state television that such an arrangement had been reached.
But soon after, US State Department spokesman Ned Price countered: ‘Statements from Iranian officials that a deal regarding the exchange of prisoners has been reached are another especially cruel lie that only adds to the suffering of their families’.
‘We are working relentlessly to secure the release of the three wrongfully detained Americans in Iran. We will not stop until they are reunited with their loved ones,’ he added.
Iranian officials had claimed the deal was essentially done, and was just waiting for ‘technical coordination’ from the US.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Sunday there was no truth to the Iranian Foreign Minister’s claim that a prisoner swap was near execution
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Sunday on state television that a deal had been arranged and the governments merely had to work out logistics before going forward with a prisoner swap
Earlier on Sunday, Amirabdollahian said: ‘Regarding the issue of prisoner swaps between Iran and the U.S. we have reached an agreement in the recent days and if everything goes well on the U.S. side, I think we will witness a prisoner exchange in a short period.’
‘On our part everything is ready, while the U.S. is currently working on the final technical coordination,’ he added.
Several United States citizens are currently being held in Iranian custody, with charges against them including spying.
The prisoners include Iranian-American businessmen Siamak Namazi and Emad Shargi, as well as Morad Tahbaz – an environmentalist, with British, American and Iranian citizenship.
Namazi was sentenced, in 2016, to a decade in Iranian prison for spying on behalf of the US government.
Shargi was arrested in 2018 while working for a tech investment company.
For many years Iran has sought to broker the release of more than a dozen Iranians being held in the US, including several who possess dual citizenship between the two countries, as well as two Iranians with permanent US residency and four Iranian citizens without legal US status.
The Iranian official did not elaborate on details of the arrangement, and US officials said no such deal had been made – adding, however, that they are determined to secure the release of the Americans being held in Iran.
Any such exchange between the two countries would be the first high-profile prisoner swap since the US traded a top global arms dealer back to Russia in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner last December.
Reuters reported that two regional countries were involved in a handful of indirect talks between Tehran and Washington concerning the release of these prisoners.
Some Iranian media claimed last week that the country had reached a prisoner swap deal in exchange for the release of $7billion in frozen Iranian oil funds currently under US sanctions in South Korea.
British-Iranian environmentalist Morad Tahbaz poses with daughter Roxanne Tahbaz prior to his imprisonment
Iranian-American businessman Emad Shargi was originally arrested in 2018 and has been detained in Iran ever since
Iranian-American consultant Siamak Namazi (right) is pictured with his father Baquer Namazi (left). Siamak was originally arrested by Iranian forces in 2016
In 2018, then-President Donald Trump walked away from the Obama era Iranian nuclear deal and reimposed a series of crippling sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The 2015 nuclear agreement imposed restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.
In reaction to the Trump-era sanctions, Iran has gradually built up its nuclear program, violating the agreement that involved four other nations.
Talks between Joe Biden’s administration and the Iranian government on reviving the nuclear agreement have been ongoing since the beginning of his term in the Oval Office, but stalled most recently in September.