The five Americans who were released as part of a prisoner exchange deal with Iran mediated by Qatar returned to the United States, while two of the released Iranians arrived in Tehran.
The plane carrying the five Americans and two members of their families landed at an air base in Virginia late yesterday evening, local time.
The American envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carstens, received the former prisoners, including Imad Sharqi, Murad Tahbaz, and Siamak Namazi.
These Americans, most of whom are of Iranian origin and one of whom was detained for more than 8 years, arrived in Doha yesterday on a Qatar Airways plane after the Iranian authorities released them under the prisoner exchange agreement that was reached after negotiations that lasted months.
The Iranian News Agency also reported that two of the five released Iranian prisoners arrived in Tehran from Doha in accordance with the US-Iranian exchange agreement mediated by Qatar.
A Qatari plane landed in Tehran carrying Mehrdad Moin Ansari and Reza Sarhangpour, who chose to return to their country according to their will, according to the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
The other three Iranians chose to remain in the United States, according to what Reuters reported.
The implementation of the prisoner exchange began yesterday with the transfer of Iranian funds released from South Korea to Iranian accounts registered in two Qatari banks.
Tehran said that the money transferred to Iranian accounts in Qatar will be spent based on Iran’s needs and priorities.
In Washington, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said yesterday that his country has mechanisms that enable it to supervise the spending of Iranian funds released under the deal.
Praise for Qatar’s role
Washington and Tehran praised Qatar’s role in reaching the prisoner exchange agreement.
US President Joe Biden extended special thanks to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq, for their help in facilitating the conclusion of the agreement.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also expressed his deep appreciation for the role played by Qatar over the past two years in mediating the agreement with Tehran, stressing that the prisoner exchange deal negotiations with Iran are completely separate from Washington’s relations with Tehran.
In turn, the Iranian Foreign Ministry appreciated the influential role of the State of Qatar in the process of transferring Iranian financial assets and exchanging prisoners with Washington, and thanked the Sultanate of Oman and Switzerland for their efforts.
Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi considered the release of the five dual-national Americans a “purely humanitarian act,” which may open the way for other humanitarian measures in the future between Tehran and Washington.
For his part, Iranian government spokesman Ali Bahadori Jahromi said that it would have been possible to implement the prisoner exchange agreement between Iran and the United States and free Iranian funds frozen in South Korea a year ago if Washington had not made a mistake in its calculations, as he put it.
Jahromi added – in a press conference – that Iranian funds in Qatari banks are now at the disposal of the Central Bank of Iran.
With the entry into force of the US-Iranian prisoner exchange agreement, we thank both parties to the agreement, hoping that it will pave the way for further understandings. We also thank our partners who contributed to its success, especially the sister Sultanate of Oman, and we affirm that Qatar continues to contribute to everything that will enhance the security of… The region and the world.
– Muhammad bin Abdul Rahman (@MBA_AlThani_) September 18, 2023
Meanwhile, Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani said that he hopes that the US-Iranian agreement on the exchange of prisoners will pave the way for more understandings.
He added, in a post on the “X” platform (formerly Twitter), that he thanks both parties to the agreement and Qatar’s partners who contributed to its success, especially the Sultanate of Oman.
The Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister stressed that Qatar continues to contribute to everything that will enhance the security of the region and the world.
The Minister of State in the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Al-Khulaifi, said that the implementation of the agreement is an indication of the position of the State of Qatar as a reliable international partner in the field of mediation, and the confidence of all parties in its integrity and impartiality.
Al-Khulaifi expressed the State of Qatar’s hope that the full implementation of the agreement between the United States and Iran will lead to greater understandings, including a return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
In turn, the South Korean Foreign Ministry confirmed that its frozen Iranian funds were successfully transferred to a third country immediately after the plane – carrying 5 Americans released by Iran as part of the exchange deal – left Doha Airport.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry added that the money in Qatar will be spent on food, medicine and other humanitarian materials, as was the case when it was in South Korea, according to what Reuters reported.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry also expressed its thanks and appreciation to Qatar and Switzerland for their constructive role in resolving the issue.