Iran accuses US and UK of holding prisoner exchange talks hostage | Middle East News


Tehran says it wants to accept the exchange of prisoners, but the United States and the United Kingdom associate it with the talks on the Iranian nuclear program.

Tehran, Iran – Iran’s top nuclear negotiator accused the United States and the United Kingdom of holding talks on the exchange of “hostage” prisoners after Iran said nuclear talks should be delayed until came to power of his new government.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said Iran was preparing for a transfer of power to the incoming administration of Ebrahim Raisi in early August, and thus months-long talks in Vienna to reinstate the nuclear deal from the countries in 2015 with world powers must wait.

“The US and UK must understand this and stop linking a humanitarian exchange – ready to be implemented – with the JCPOA,” he tweeted on Saturday, using the official name of the agreement. historic, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“Keeping such an exchange of political handouts hostage does not bring any results,” he said, adding that 10 prisoners from all sides could be released tomorrow if the other parties do their part.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said later on Saturday that the comments were “an outrageous effort to deflect blame for the current standoff.”

“We are ready to return to Vienna to complete work on a mutual return to the JCPOA once Iran takes the necessary decisions,” Price said, as reported by Reuters news agency.

“Regarding the comments about the Americans that Iran has unfairly withheld against their will, we see just another cruel effort to spark hope in their families… There is no agreed upon agreement yet,” did he declare.

The UK government made no immediate comment.

Iran and the United States have recognized for months that they were engaged in indirect talks – facilitated by Switzerland – to finalize a prisoner exchange. The two sides said last week that the talks have progressed.

The two countries have had two prisoner exchanges in the past, once in January 2016, during the implementation of the nuclear deal, and once in December 2019.

Like the nuclear talks, it now appears that the prisoner swap is also postponed until ultra-conservative Raisi takes office.

While diplomats initially expressed hope that the JCPOA could be reinstated by the sixth anniversary of its signing on July 14, a report Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote to parliament last week confirmed that Raisi hopes to “complete” the process that began in May.

Zarif said most of the sanctions the United States has imposed on Iran since 2018 – when it unilaterally abandoned the JCPOA – will be lifted if a deal is reached in Vienna. But steps Iran has taken to advance its nuclear program, including enriching uranium to over 60 percent and producing uranium metal, have also complicated negotiations.

The Vienna talks are expected to continue in the second half of August, but it remains to be seen how political differences in Tehran will evolve so far. In addition to affecting the timing, Raisi’s team has already had a direct effect on the progress of the talks as they appointed two members to a newly formed “adaptation committee” which is tasked with reviewing progress.

These members are security official Ali Hosseini-Tash and former nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani, both seen as potential candidates to replace veteran diplomat Zarif as foreign minister.

The committee would also be made up of Araghchi; Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council; Ali Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran; and two legislators.

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