LONDON: Iran is prepared to organize a major prison swap with Washington if the US delivers a significant gesture of goodwill, such as by releasing $8 billion of overseas Iranian assets that are unavailable to the regime, Iran’s top diplomat has said.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that the US and Iran had “never been so close to reaching a deal as we are today,” regarding the nuclear deal that was dislodged under former US president Donald Trump’s administration.
European nations have been engaging with Tehran with hopes of restarting the deal since February.
While addressing the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Iran’s foreign minister said the country required the US to display some flexibility in providing political, legal and economic guarantees that Washington will honor the nuclear deal.
He said that prisoner swaps were “a completely humanitarian issue,” adding: “There was a kind of agreement that was formed last year that all the prisoners at once will be exchanged.”
Amir-Abdollahian claimed that the Americans are prepared to include prisoners as part of the terms of the Vienna talks, but said “from Iran’s point of view, there is no relationship between the prisoners and the Vienna talks. Away from it, we can do it immediately.”
The foreign minister said economic issues were the most important part of any attempt to secure the deal, and that Iran had argued that no sanctions of any kind could be applied to any deal struck between an Iranian company and a foreign company, protecting them from further sanctions should Washington withdraw again like it did under Trump.
He added that US chief Iran negotiator Robert Malley had told the regime via intermediaries that he cannot guarantee that a future US administration would stand by any commitment made by US President Joe Biden, which Amir-Abdollahian said conflicted with international law that requires states to stick with agreements made by previous governments in the international arena.
“Saying we have goodwill in words is not enough for direct talks. On the ground they have to show it in practice,” he said, adding that an economic gesture would pave the way for talks, which the minister claimed is what Malley is hoping to achieve.