In a significant diplomatic move, five American citizens who were detained in Iran have been released and flown to Doha, following an agreement between the U.S. and Iran.
This comes as a part of a negotiated deal that also witnessed the release of five Iranians from the U.S. and a transfer of $6 billion to Iranian accounts in Doha, Reuters reports.
U.S. President Joe Biden expressed relief and happiness over the development, stating: “Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home.”
He went on to emphasize the emotional toll their imprisonment had taken, saying the returnees “will soon be reunited with their loved ones—after enduring years of agony, uncertainty, and suffering.”
The deal, mediated by Qatar, saw a plane fly the Americans and two of their family members out of Tehran.
The transfer came after confirmation that the previously agreed-upon funds had been moved to Doha-based accounts.
Switzerland’s ambassador to Iran was also on board the aircraft that landed at Doha International Airport, ensuring the safe transfer of the American citizens to U.S. officials waiting in Qatar, Reuters notes.
In a parallel move, two of the five Iranian nationals who were released from the U.S. have arrived in Qatar.
Interestingly, three of the released Iranians have chosen not to return to their home country.
Among the Americans released are business professionals Siamak Namazi, 51, and Emad Sharqi, 59, as well as environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, 67, who holds dual U.S. and British citizenship.
Two more American detainees, whose identities remain undisclosed, were also part of the exchange. On the Iranian side, the individuals released by the U.S. are Mehrdad Moin-Ansari, Kambiz Attar-Kashani, Reza Sarhangpour-Kafrani, Amin Hassanzadeh, and Kaveh Afrasiabi.
It is noted that Afrasiabi may remain in the United States.
This diplomatic negotiation took place after prolonged discussions in Qatar.
The deal has been perceived as a major step toward easing tensions between the two nations, historically characterized by the U.S. branding Iran a “sponsor of terrorism” and Iran labeling the U.S. as the “Great Satan.”
However, a senior U.S. administration official was quick to assert that this agreement doesn’t signal an end to the adversarial U.S.-Iran relations.
The official, wishing to remain anonymous, mentioned, “If we see an opportunity, we will explore it but right now, I’ve really nothing to talk about,” suggesting the possibility of future diplomatic discussions, particularly on Iran’s nuclear program.