• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

US-Iran prisoners swap unlocks $6bn

US-IRAN prisoner swap (1)

The United States and Iran exchanged five prisoners each, marking a significant breakthrough in their long-standing enmity. Tehran gained access to $6 billion in previously frozen funds as part of the arrangement.

The five American prisoners, one of whom had been held for eight years, departed Tehran on a Qatari jet following the release. A US government plane transported them to Washington for medical check-ups.

President Biden had an emotional conversation with the released prisoners’ families, receiving praise for prioritising American lives over politics.

Anthony Blinken, Secretary of State re-emphasized the administration’s commitment to freeing US citizens as their top priority.

“Thank you, President Biden, for ultimately putting the lives of American citizens above politics,” Siamak Namazi, a businessman held since 2015, said in a statement.

Anthony Blinken, Secretary of State insisted the Biden administration had “no higher priority” than freeing US citizens.

“It’s very good to be able to say that our fellow citizens are free,” Blinken told reporters in New York, where he and Biden are taking part in UN meetings.

Read also: BRICS extends invitations to Saudi Arabia, Iran, 4 others

Two of the Iranian detainees went back to Tehran via Doha, as reported by Iranian official media. Meanwhile, the other three individuals released by the United States have chosen to stay either in the destination country or a third nation.

After conducting discreet negotiations facilitated in part by Qatar, the two nations finalized the prisoner exchange following the transfer of $6 billion in funds that were previously frozen by South Korea, a US ally.

Despite facing domestic criticism of “ransom” payments, the Biden administration maintains that these funds will be exclusively allocated for humanitarian purposes, with a warning of reimposing freezes if not adhered to. Iran, on the other hand, insists on having unrestricted access to the funds.

The money “cruelly blocked until now and currently in the possession of the Islamic republic belongs to the people (of Iran) and we will use them to meet the people’s needs,” President Ebrahim Raisi said in New York.