Iran insists it is ready to swap prisoners with U.S.

June 8, 2020 - 15:37

TEHRAN - Government spokesman Ali Rabiei on Monday insisted on Tehran’s willingness to swap prisoners with the United States.

“Three Iranian scientists Dr. Soleimani, Dr. Taheri and Dr. Asgari returned to Tehran or are on the way back. We hope the process of returning the Iranian inmates in the United States would continue. Iran is fully prepared to swap prisoners and full responsibility is upon the United States’ administration,” Rabiei said during a press conference.

Tehran announced on Thursday a prisoner swap between Iran and the United States.

“Pleased that Dr. Majid Taheri and Mr. White [U.S. Navy veteran Michael White] will soon be joining their families,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Thursday. “Prof. Sirous Asgari was happily reunited with his family on Weds.”

“This can happen for all prisoners,” Zarif said, adding, “No need for cherry-picking. Iranian hostages held in—and on behalf of—the US should come home.”

Taheri, a physician, arrived in Tehran on Monday morning. He was released 
after 16 months in detention. Taheri was released in exchange for White. 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a statement on Thursday that White, who had been in jail in Iran, was released after being granted Islamic mercy for his crimes.

White was released from jail given the time served and in respect of human rights considerations, and left Iran on Thursday, Mousavi said.

Zarif said in December that Tehran was ready for a full prisoner exchange with the United States, tweeting: “The ball is in the US’ court”.

On Sunday, Mousavi repeated Zarif’s words for prisoner swap.

“If it is possible to swap prisoners, we are ready to set free the people in the United States’ jails and bring them back to the country,” Mousavi told IRNA.

He also praised Switzerland’s efforts in a recent prisoners swap, noting that there were no direct talks between Tehran and Washington.

Switzerland which takes care of the U.S. interests in Iran has played a role in the recent prisoner exchange. It has announced that it is ready to act as a facilitator for more prisoner swaps.

‘Trump’s invitation to talks is just a show’

Trump has thanked Iran for releasing White, proposing talks.

However, Rabiei said that U.S. President Donald Trump’s invitation to talks is just a “show”.

In a tweet on Friday, Trump said, “So great to have Michael home. Just arrived. Very exciting. Thank you to Iran. Don’t wait until after U.S. Election to make the Big deal.” 

Trump quit the 2015 nuclear deal in May 2018 and slapped the harshest sanctions in history against Iran with the hope of bringing Iran to the negotiating table to write a new deal. Iran has dismissed the proposal and said it is adopting “maximum resistance” in the face of the U.S. “maximum pressure” strategy.     

Iran has said the only option for the U.S. is to return to the nuclear deal – JCPOA- and compensate the damages to its economy. 

NA/PA

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