Once $6 billion in unfrozen Iranian funds are transferred to Qatari banks as early as next week, up to five detained U.S. dual nationals could leave Iran and remain in U.S. custody. This would begin a carefully planned sequence in which an equal number of Iranian prisoners of war would also leave the country. According to eight Iranians and others familiar with the negotiations who spoke to Reuters, he returned by plane.
As a first step, Iran released four Americans on August 10. people They were placed under house arrest from Tehran’s Evin Prison, where they were joined by a fifth person who was already under house arrest.Later that day, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called This move is the first step in a process that will lead to their return home.
According to the US government, they include businessmen Shiamak Namazi, 51, and Emad Sharqi, 59, as well as British environmental activist Morad Tahbaz, 67. The Tahbaz and Shargi families did not respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for the Namazi family declined to comment.
The identities of the fourth and fifth Americans have not been disclosed, but two sources said one of them was a woman. Reuters could not reveal which Iranian prisoners the United States would in turn exchange.
Iran is at the center of the negotiations that led to this agreement with the superpower that calls itself “Iran.” “Great Satan“And the Islamic Republic, which Washington calls a state sponsor of terrorism, is a small but extremely wealthy state.” qatar.
At least eight rounds of talks have been held in Doha, with Iranian and U.S. negotiators sitting in separate hotels and communicating through shuttle diplomacy, according to people briefed on the talks, with initial meetings mainly focused on thorny issues. He said the focus was on. nuclear issue and the subsequent release of prisoners.
Doha plans to introduce financial arrangements to pay bank fees and monitor how Iran spends its funds. unfrozen cash To ensure that no funds are spent on items subject to U.S. sanctions, prisoner According to three sources, the exchange is scheduled to pass through Qatar.
“Iran initially wanted direct access to the funds, but ultimately agreed to access it through Qatar,” a senior diplomat said. “Iran will buy food and medicine and Qatar will pay directly.”
Reuters has compiled previously unreported details about the extent of Qatar’s mediation of the secret talks, the development of the agreement and the expediency that motivated the parties to enter into the prisoner exchange agreement. Reuters interviewed four Iranian officials, two U.S. officials, a senior Western diplomat, a Gulf government adviser and a person familiar with the negotiations.
All sources requested anonymity due to the confidentiality of the agreement, which has not been fully implemented.
A State Department spokesperson said the United States was not ready to announce the exact timing of the prisoners’ release. The department also declined to discuss details of what a spokesperson called “ongoing and highly sensitive negotiations.”
“You can build a relationship of trust.”
The U.S. government did not comment on the timing of the transfer. However, on September 5, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin said that the following efforts were underway: transfer Iranian funds.
A State Department spokesperson added: “The relationship between the United States and Iran is not characterized by trust. We judge Iran by its actions and nothing else.”
The US government has agreed to the transfer of Iranian funds from South Korea to restricted accounts held by Qatari financial institutions, but the funds will not be sent directly to Iran, the spokesperson added.
Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to a Reuters request for comment on the details of the negotiations, Qatar’s role in them or the terms of the final agreement.
Iran’s foreign ministry and mission to the United Nations did not respond to detailed questions on the matter.
Sources’ accounts of the negotiations describe how the deal sidesteps the main dispute between the United States and Iran over the objectives of Iran’s nuclear program, leaving them at odds on a number of issues ranging from Iran’s nuclear program to However, it marks a rare moment of cooperation between the longtime adversaries. US military presence in the Gulf.
Relations between the United States and Iran have reached a boiling point since Donald Trump, as president of the United States, withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018. Since then, reaching a new nuclear deal has received little attention as President Joe Biden prepares for the 2024 US elections.
A State Department spokesperson also said the United States’ overall approach toward Iran remains unchanged and “remains focused on deterrence, pressure, and diplomacy.”
Once the funds are transferred, they will be held in a restricted account in Qatar, and the United States will have oversight over when and how these funds are used, the State Department spokesperson added.
Republicans focus on possibility of transfer criticism This means that Democrat Biden is effectively paying a ransom to the American people. But Blinken told reporters on August 10 that the deal did not mean Iran would receive any sanctions relief, adding that the United States “stands firmly against Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region.” ” He explained that he would continue to rebel.
The Qatari-led mediation gained momentum in June 2023, officials said, with at least eight rounds of talks held since March 2022, with initial talks mainly focused on the nuclear issue and later discussions on the nuclear issue. was about prisoners of war, he added.
“They all realized that nuclear (negotiations) were an impasse and shifted their focus to prisoners. Prisoners are simpler. They are easier to capture and you can build trust.” “This is where things got serious again.”
Prisoners scheduled to transit through Qatar
Once the money arrived in Qatar from South Korea via Switzerland, Qatari officials told Tehran and the United States that the two countries and Qatar had signed a deal in late July or early August, according to Iranian, diplomatic and regional sources. The government plans to instruct the government to proceed with the release based on the terms of the document. . Reuters has not seen the document.
Transfer money to a Qatari bank. conclude If all goes as planned, talks could begin as early as next week, according to people briefed on the talks. Reuters was unable to identify the banks involved.
“The American prisoners will be flown from Tehran to Qatar, and the Iranian prisoners will be flown from the United States to Qatar and then transferred to Iran,” a person briefed on the talks told Reuters.
The most complex part of the negotiations was putting in place mechanisms to ensure transparency of remittances and respect for U.S. sanctions, according to two Iranian insiders, one briefed on the negotiations and one a senior Western diplomat. That’s what it means. $6 billion in Iranian assets (proceeds from oil sales) have been frozen under broad U.S. oil and financial sanctions against Iran. Then, in 2018, President Trump withdrew the United States from an agreement restricting Iran’s nuclear program and reimposed sanctions.
Issues discussed included how Iran could spend money only on humanitarian supplies and how to secure guarantees from Qatar about monitoring the process.
“In order to save the negotiations from breaking down, Qatar promised to bear the bank fees associated with transferring funds from Seoul to Switzerland and then to Qatari banks, as well as to take responsibility for overseeing expenses.”Iranian relations were briefed on the talks. said the person. Reuters.
The central bank governors of Iran and Qatar met in Doha on June 14 to discuss capital transfers, said another Iranian insider and a person briefed on the meeting.
The Central Bank of Iran and the Central Bank of Qatar declined to comment.
The talks were led by Robert Malley, the US special envoy to Iran, who is currently on unpaid leave. safety inspection The deal is being considered by U.S. deputy special envoy Abram Paley and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani, according to an Iranian official, two sources briefed on the negotiations, and a Western diplomat. said.
A senior Iranian diplomat told Reuters that Mehdi Safari, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for economic affairs, joined the Iranian delegation for two meetings in Qatar to discuss the financial transfer. Ta. Mohammed Al Khraifi, Minister of State at Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, acted as the mediator.
Murray declined to comment. Mr. Paley, Mr. Kani and Mr. Al-Fraifi could not immediately be reached for comment.