Tehran said a controversial deal with its arch-enemy the United States to release $6 billion in Iranian funds and exchange five detainees each would be completed on Monday, but the exact timing was not given after months of negotiations from Qatar.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said the funds frozen in South Korea would be in Iran’s possession on Monday, triggering the exchange of five US citizens detained in Iran for five Iranians held in the US
Under the carefully choreographed agreement, the five Americans with dual citizenship, including one with British citizenship, are expected to leave Tehran and travel to Qatar.
If it is confirmed that the money was transferred from South Korea to Switzerland and then on to Qatar, it will trigger the release of the prisoners, it is said NBC News.
Businessman Emad Shargi (left) and British-born environmentalist Morad Tahbaz are two of the US citizens transferred from prison to house arrest ahead of a possible deal
The transfer of Iranian funds has drawn criticism from Republicans who say President Joe Biden, a Democrat, is actually paying a ransom for U.S. citizens. The White House has defended the deal.
The agreement, first made public on August 10, will resolve a major irritant between Washington and Tehran, although the two sides remain deeply divided over issues ranging from Iran’s nuclear ambitions and influence in the region to U.S Sanctions and America’s military presence in the region extend to the Gulf.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said on Monday it was working with all parties on the agreement “to ensure the smooth conduct of all procedures so that the issue can be resolved once and for all.”
The money has been held at Korea’s Industrial Bank of Korea and Woori Bank since 2019, when a lifting of sanctions on oil imports expired.
The US dual citizens set to be released include Siamak Namazi, 51, and Emad Sharqi, 59, both businessmen, and Morad Tahbaz, 67, an environmentalist who also has British citizenship. They were released from prison last month and placed under house arrest.
Namazi, an oil executive, was arrested in 2015 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison for “collaborating with a hostile government” because of his ties to the US.
Sharqi was arrested in 2018 for unknown reasons, released and subsequently arrested again in 2020. Shortly after his second arrest, Sharqi was sentenced to ten years in prison on espionage charges.
A view of the entrance to Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran, where the Americans were held
Republicans condemned the Biden administration for paying a ransom for Americans
Meanwhile, Tahbaz was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2018 on similar charges.
A fourth U.S. citizen was also released to house arrest, while a fifth was already under house arrest. Her identity has not been revealed.
Iranian officials have named the five Iranians to be released by the US as Mehrdad Moin-Ansari, Kambiz Attar-Kashani, Reza Sarhangpour-Kafrani, Amin Hassanzadeh and Kaveh Afrasiabi.
Moin-Ansari and Kashani are serving federal prison sentences, while others are on supervised release ahead of their trial.
Two Iranian officials said Afrasiabi would remain in the United States.
As a first step in the agreement, Washington waived sanctions to allow the transfer of $6 billion in Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar. The funds had been blocked in South Korea, normally one of Iran’s biggest oil customers, due to US sanctions.
Under the deal, Doha agreed to monitor how Iran spends the funds to ensure they are used for unsanctioned humanitarian goods such as food and medicine.
Relations between Washington and Tehran have been boiling since Donald Trump, a Republican, pulled the United States out of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers as president in 2018. The conclusion of another nuclear deal has since received little traction, with Biden preparing for the 2024 US election.