Iran voices readiness to implement prisoner swap deal with U.S., UK
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh on Sunday confirmed that a swap has been agreed with Washington and London a day after the U.S. denied the swap. “Iran is ready to proceed TODAY,” Khatibzadeh said on Twitter.
Khatibzadeh was responding to a U.S. response to an earlier tweet by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi saying that the U.S. and the UK were linking the swap to nuclear talks currently underway in Vienna over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Araqchi said ten prisoners on all sides stand ready to be swapped but the U.S. and the UK did not fulfill their part of the deal.
“We're in a transition period as a democratic transfer of power is underway in our capital. Vienna talks must thus obviously await our new administration. This is what every democracy demands,” the deputy foreign minister said in a tweet on Saturday.
He added, “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.”
The U.S. rushed to deny that already a swap deal had been agreed with Iran, accusing it of an “outrageous” effort to deflect blame for the impasse in the Iran nuclear deal talks. “These comments are an outrageous effort to deflect blame for the current impasse,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said,
“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 added.
The spokesman also said “there is no agreed deal yet” on the swap.
“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 noted. “While 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.”
Khatibzadeh lashed out at the U.S., reiterating that a deal on the prisoners had been agreed with Washington. “‘Outrageous’=the U.S. denying simple fact that ‘there IS an agreed deal on the matter of the detainees.’ Even on how to announce it,” he said.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman added, “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.”
Since April, diplomats from the remaining parties to the JCPOA and the U.S. have held six rounds of talks in a bid to revive the deal. They made significant progress but failed to get Iran and the U.S. back to full compliance with the nuclear deal.
After the sixth round, Iran and the U.S. called on each other to make tough decisions to break the deadlock over the deal.
Ever since the end of the sixth round of nuclear talks in Vienna on June 20, the U.S. and its European allies, namely France, Germany and the UK - collectively known as the E3 – have been urging Iran to make “tough decisions” to revive the JCPOA, as if it was Iran that pulled out of the deal in the first place.
The U.S. envoy to the Vienna talks went so far as to threaten to walk out of the talks if Iran insisted on its rights under the nuclear deal. “We wouldn't be going back to Vienna if we thought that it's not possible to reach a deal. I don't think that this window is going to be open forever. At some point, we'll have to conclude that this is not succeeding. But we're not there yet,” Rob Malley told NPR in a recent interview.
He also made it clear that the Biden administration wouldn’t lift all the sanctions imposed by its predecessor. “We're not going to lift all of the sanctions that the Trump administration imposed,” Malley asserted.
The U.S. and French foreign ministers have called on Iran to make “tough decisions” to revive the deal. U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken hinted at a U.S. withdrawal from talks with Iran if Tehran continued to increase its nuclear activities.
Iran responded by saying that if a party is to make tough decisions it is the United States and its European allies, not Iran. Because Iran had already made tough decisions after the U.S. unilateral decision to withdraw from the JCPOA in May 2018.
Araqchi has said Iran had already made tough decisions to preserve the deal and now it’s the U.S.’s turn to make such decisions.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has already made tough decisions. When the United States withdrew from the JCPOA and Iran decided to stay in the JCPOA. It was Iran's big and difficult decision that led to the preservation of the JCPOA so far. Now it is the turn of the opposing parties, and according to the negotiations we had, they must decide and reach a conclusion on the revival of the JCPOA in order to reach an agreement,” Araqchi said in recent remarks to Iran’s state media.
Khatibzadeh has reiterated the same call, putting the onus of making tough decisions on the U.S. “The progress made in the Vienna talks is a fact acknowledged by all parties to the talks, although there are still important issues that largely need to be decided by the other parties, especially the United States. In fact, the finalization of the agreement to revive the JCPOA depends on the political will of the other parties to make tough decisions on their part,” he pointed out.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018 and imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Iran. Trump piled up sanctions on Iran in a bid to force Iran into making more concessions to the U.S. within the framework of a new nuclear deal. Trump, however, failed to get his deal, bequeathing his successor a litany of unresolved issues with Iran. The Biden administration has said it wants to open a new chapter with Iran and change tack, though it is yet to make any move to break with the Trump legacy on Iran.
Source: Tehran Times