Iran ready to swap prisoners with US

Foreign minister says it is a 'humanitarian issue' unrelated to nuclear deal talks

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Western powers will be to blame if talks in Vienna over a revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal fail, the Iranian foreign minister said, adding that Tehran is ready to swap prisoners with the US.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Hossein Amirabdollahian said "prisoner swaps is a humanitarian issue ... unrelated to the nuclear accord. We can do it immediately."

He said an agreement with world powers on a nuclear deal remained very much a possibility.

“I would like to emphasise here that we are ready to achieve a good deal, at the earliest possible time, if the other side makes the needed political decision,” he said. “We are very serious.”

Eight rounds of talks have been held since last spring between Iran, China, the EU, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and – indirectly – the US.

Then US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from the 2015 accord in 2018, reimposing heavy economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme.

In response to the move, Tehran has repeatedly breached the terms of the accord and enriched uranium closer to weapons grade.

Also speaking in Munich was German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

“We now have the opportunity to reach an agreement that makes it possible for sanctions to be lifted,” he said.

“At the same time, it's the case that if we don't succeed very quickly in this, the negotiations threaten to fail.

“The Iranian leadership now has a choice,” the chancellor said. “Now is the moment of truth.”

The outline of a new deal appears to be on the table in Vienna.

Mr Trump’s successor Joe Biden said he is willing to return to the deal and ease some of the US sanctions, provided Tehran resumes its commitments under the agreement.

Iran, which claims its nuclear programme is peaceful, wants guarantees that sanctions will not return.

Updated: February 19, 2022, 7:32 PM
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