The Iranian government claimed Sunday that the Biden Administration did not follow through on what it says was a prisoner swap both countries allegedly agreed to in Vienna.
Saeed Khatibzadeh, a spokesman for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wrote in a Sunday morning Twitter post that Iran finds it “outrageous” that the United States was allegedly “denying [a] simple fact that ‘there IS an agreed deal on the matter of the detainees.”
The deal is independent from talks on the Biden administration rejoining the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, Khatibzadeh wrote.
“Outrageous”=the US denying simple fact that “there IS an agreed deal on the matter of the detainees.” Even on how to announce it.
Humanitarian swap was agreed with US & UK in Vienna-separate from JCPOA- on release of 10 prisoners on all sides.
Iran is ready to proceed TODAY.
— Saeed Khatibzadeh (@SKhatibzadeh) July 18, 2021
“Iran is ready to proceed TODAY” with the prisoner swap, the tweet said.
However, the State Department denies the existence of such an agreement, according to the Reuters news agency.
“There is no agreed deal yet,” a State Department spokesman told Reuters.
Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran and senior nuclear negotiator Seyed Abbas Araghchi wrote in a Saturday Twitter thread that the next round of talks over the nuclear deal must wait for the new administration of incoming Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to take power next month.
However, Araghchi said that Iran is willing to conduct a 10-prisoner swap soon if the U.S. and the U.K. avoid linking the release of the prisoners with the nuclear deal negotiations.
US & UK need to understand this and stop linking a humanitarian exchange—ready to be implemented—with the JCPOA.
Keeping such an exchange hostage to political aims achieves neither.
TEN PRISONERS on all sides may be released TOMORROW if US&UK fulfill their part of deal. 2/2
— Seyed Abbas Araghchi (@araghchi) July 17, 2021
“We’re in a transition period as a democratic transfer of power is underway in our capital. [The] Vienna talks must thus obviously await our new administration. This is what every democracy demands. US & UK need to understand this and stop linking a humanitarian exchange—ready to be implemented—with the JCPOA,” Araghchi’s Twitter post stated.
“Keeping such an exchange hostage to political aims achieves neither. TEN PRISONERS on all sides may be released TOMORROW if [the] US & UK fulfill their part of deal.”
Department of State spokesman Edward “Ned” Price responded on behalf of the U.S. on Saturday calling Araghchi’s comments “an outrageous effort to deflect blame for the current impasse,” Reuters reported.
“We stand ready to return to Vienna to complete work on a mutual return to the JCPOA once Iran has made the necessary decisions,” Price said.
Speaking of the prisoners in question, Price said, “[w]ith respect to the comments on the Americans whom Iran has unjustly held against their will, we see just another cruel effort to raise the hopes of their families.”
According to information from Reuters, Iran has “a handful” of American nationals in its prisons. The outlet reported that human rights activists accuse the Iranian regime of detaining Iranians with dual nationalities and using their plight as leverage against the other country where they hold citizenship. Iran, however, denies such charges, Reuters reported.
“We had been engaged in indirect talks on the detainees in the context of the Vienna process, and the delay in restarting that process is not helping,” Price added, told Reuters, saying that “[w]hile it would be more effective to make progress if we were meeting in Vienna, we are also prepared to continue with talks on detainees during this period.”
The JCPOA is a 159-page agreement among reached in 2015 under then-President Barack Obama and involving Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.K. As part of the agreement, Iran would receive sanctions removal in exchange for rolling back its nuclear arms program. Israel vehemently opposed the deal.
IN 2017, then-President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement, claiming that it was ineffective at stopping the Islamic Republic from securing nuclear weapons. Following the withdrawal, Trump reimposed the harsh sanctions in place against Iran before the agreement, in addition to sanctions he imposed during his term.
With a Democratic administration in power once again, President Joe Biden seeks to negotiate either a re-entry into the JCPOA or a new nuclear deal altogether. Before the present impasse in talks, Biden administration officials were conducting talks with Iranian officials in Vienna.
The election of hardline Shia cleric Ebrahim Raisi to the country’s presidency puts the future of talks on the nuclear agreement in question. According to the BBC, Raisi is firmly committed to his country’s ballistic missile program.
“We will not allow negotiations to be for negotiations’ sake,” he said in a June 21 news conference, the BBC reported. “Negotiations should not be dragged out but each sitting should bear results. A result-oriented [negotiation] is important to us and it should have an outcome for the Iranian nation.”
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