(Photo credit: Al-Mayadeen)
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, announced on 12 March that the US and Iran had agreed on a prisoner swap. However, the top Iranian official did not elaborate on the agreement’s details.
According to Al-Arabiya news, a source familiar with the matter said that Tehran would release three US citizens in exchange for access to blocked funds.
The source further elaborated that Iran would release Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, and Emad Sharghi. In exchange, the US would unfreeze Iranian funds in South Korea, Iraq, and Japan and release at least one prisoner.
However, the prisoner released by the US will be of low profile, such as Manssor Arbabsiar, who was charged in the US for an alleged plot to assassinate a Saudi diplomat in 2011.
“Regarding the issue of prisoner swaps between Iran and the US, we have reached an agreement in recent days, and if everything goes well on the US side, I think we will witness a prisoner exchange in a short period,” Amir-Abdollahian said during a televised interview.
“On our part, everything is ready, while the US is currently working on the final technical coordination,” he added.
Iranian sources told Reuters that two regional countries were involved in the indirect negotiations between the US and Iran.
However, soon after the Iranian official made the announcement, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price denied such a deal has been reached to AP, calling it a “cruel lie.”
“We are working relentlessly to secure the release of the three wrongfully detained Americans in Iran,” Price said. “We will not stop until they are reunited with their loved ones.”
The news comes shortly after it was announced that Iran and Saudi Arabia resume relations after a series of secret talks held in Beijing between the two rival Islamic nations, which concluded on 10 March.
According to a tripartite statement issued by China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, the secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, arrived in Beijing on 6 March for “intensive talks for a final solution to the issues between Tehran and Riyadh,” with his Saudi counterpart, National Security Adviser Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban and the head of China’s Office of the Central Committee for Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi.
Diplomatic relations between Tehran and Riyadh were severed in 2016 after Riyadh executed prominent Saudi Shiite cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, and Iranian demonstrators attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in the eastern city of Mashhad in response.