Biden administration rips Iran over delay in prisoner exchange talks

Biden administration rips Iran over delay in prisoner exchange talks
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A spokesman for the State Department slammed Iran in response to claims that the U.S. and UK were linking a humanitarian exchange with the Iran Nuclear Deal, calling the allegations “outrageous.”

Iran’s deputy foreign minister, in a tweet on Saturday, accused the U.S. and British governments of holding a proposed prisoner swap “hostage” over negotiations for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Seyed Abbas Araghchi said the Vienna talks, referring to the JCPOA negotiations, must be delayed until after the country’s new hardline president-elect is inaugurated early next month, and urged the U.S. and UK to “understand this and stop linking a humanitarian exchange - ready to be implemented - with the JCPOA.”

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“TEN PRISONERS on all sides may be released TOMORROW if US&UK fulfill their part of deal,” Araghchi added.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price rejected Araghchi’s claim in a statement, denying that a deal for a prison swap was on the table and that the U.S. is willing to continue talks regarding prisoners as time passes before the renewal of the JCPOA talks.

“These comments are an outrageous effort to deflect blame for the current impasse on a potential mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA,” Price said in a statement.

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“We stand ready to return to Vienna to complete work on a mutual return to the JCPOA once Iran has made the necessary decisions,” he added.

Price said Araghchi’s mention of the potential release of the 10 prisoners was “just another cruel effort to raise the hopes of their families".

“If Iran were truly interested in making a humanitarian gesture, it would simply release the detainees immediately,” he added.

 

Price also ripped Iran’s claim that the U.S. and U.K. are holding the prisoner exchange “hostage,” writing that the government “has been unjustly detaining four innocent Americans for years.”

Price added that the “delay in restarting that process is not helping,” after the countries have “been engaged in indirect talks on the detainees in the context of the Vienna process.”

He concluded the statement by saying that while the U.S. feels prisoner swap discussions would be more effective in that context, the State Department is “prepared to continue with talks on detainees during” the current hiatus.

A sixth round of nuclear discussions came to an end last month without an agreement, according to The Associated Press, right before Ebrahim Raisi won the country's presidential election.

The U.S. has reportedly said it is ready to began a seventh round when Iran is ready. The U.S., however, has also continued its calls for American citizens detained in the country to be released immediately.

Saeed Khatibzadeh, a spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, shot back at Price in a statement on Twitter, doubling down on the country’s claim that a prisoner swap was imminent.

“Outrageous"=the US denying simple fact that "there IS an agreed deal on the matter of the detainees." Even on how to announce it,” Khatibzadeh wrote.

“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,” he added.

—Updated at 5:05 p.m.