Iran ready for full prisoner swap with the U.S., says Zarif

December 9, 2019 - 17:35

TEHRAN – Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that Iran is ready for a full prisoner swap with the United States, noting that the “ball is in the U.S.’s court”.

“After getting our hostage back this week, fully ready for comprehensive prisoner exchange,” Zarif said via Twitter.

Iran and the United States exchanged prisoners on Saturday. An Iranian scientist was released by the U.S. and Iran released an American detained for three years on spying charges.

Masoud Soleimani, a 49-year-old stem cell scientist, left Iran on sabbatical last year, but was arrested upon arrival in Chicago and transferred to prison in Atlanta, Georgia for unspecified reasons.

The prisoner exchange happened through mediation efforts by Switzerland. 

After he was released, Soleimani flew along with Zarif from Zurich to Tehran on Saturday.

Xiyue Wang was also flown in a Swiss government airplane from Tehran to Zurich, where he was met by Brian H. Hook, the U.S. State Department’s special representative for Iran, according to two senior United States officials.

Zarif said he was happy that Soleimani and Xiyue were joining their families. 

“Glad that Professor Massoud Soleimani and Mr. Xiyue Wang will be joining their families shortly. Many thanks to all engaged, particularly the Swiss government,” Zarif tweeted on Saturday.

Hours before Zarif’s Monday tweet, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei announced Iran’s readiness for more prisoner swaps with the United States.

“We are ready to cooperate to return all Iranians unlawfully imprisoned in the U.S.,” Rabiei told reporters at a press conference in Tehran. 

He said, however, that there will be no other talks with the U.S. beside this issue.

U.S. President Donald Trump has imposed the harshest ever sanctions against Iran since he pulled the United States out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. 

Trump’s administration has even threatened to penalize any country or company that does business with Iran. 

Under the nuclear accord, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to put limits on its nuclear activities in exchange for termination of economic and financial sanctions.

In a tweet on Saturday, Trump thanked Iran “on a very fair negotiation.”

“See, we can make a deal together!” he wrote.

The U.S. president also bashed his predecessor, Barack Obama, saying the released American student was taken during the Obama administration.

“Taken during the Obama Administration (despite $150 Billion gift), returned during the Trump Administration,” Trump wrote.

Trump has been very critical of Obama’s Iran policy.

Observers say he enjoyed killing the JCPOA because it was Obama’s major foreign policy success.


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