WASHINGTON — On Saturday, the Biden administration slammed Iran for postponing a potential prisoner swap in order to demand a fast restart of indirect nuclear discussions.
The State Department criticized Iran’s deputy foreign minister’s claims that the US and Britain were holding the swap “hostage” to talks to save the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, as “outrageous.”
Seyyed Abbas Araghchi stated in a pair of tweets from his verified account that the Vienna nuclear talks could not restart until Iran’s hardline president-elect is installed in early August. “We are in a moment of change as a democratic transfer of power takes place in our capital,” he explained.
The nuclear discussions “clearly” have to wait for the incoming government. This is what every democracy needs, according to Aragchi. He went on to say that the US and the UK “ought to grasp this and avoid equating a ready-to-implement humanitarian exchange with the JCPOA.”
“Holding such a conversation captive to political goals achieves neither,” said Aragchi, Iran’s senior negotiator in the Vienna negotiations. “TEN PRISONERS on both sides might be freed TOMORROW if the US&UK keep their end of the bargain.”
The sixth round of nuclear talks concluded last month without a deal, just days before Ebrahim Raisi won Iran’s presidential election. The United States has stated repeatedly that it is prepared for a seventh-round as soon as Iran is ready, as well as asking for the prompt release of American nationals held in Iran.
In response to Aragchi’s comments, State Department spokesperson Ned Price emphatically refuted the assertion, claimed that a swap deal had already been reached, and stated that the US was willing to continue prisoner discussions even while waiting for the nuclear talks to resume.
“These remarks are an absurd attempt to shift responsibility for the current deadlock on a hypothetical mutual return to JCPOA compliance,” Price added. “Once Iran has made the required decisions, we will return to Vienna to conclude work on a mutual return to the JCPOA.”
Aragchi’s remark on the probable immediate release of ten detainees on all sides, according to Price, was “simply another callous ploy to boost the hopes of their relatives.” “If Iran genuinely wanted to make a humanitarian gesture, it would just free the captives right away,” he added.
Price did not respond to Aragchi’s allegation that Iran is undergoing a “democratic power transition,” but he did criticize his claim that the US and Britain are holding the prisoner swap “hostage.” He said that “for years, the Iranian regime has been unjustly holding four innocent Americans.”
Indirect conversations on the prisoners had been continuing as part of the Vienna nuclear talks, according to Price, and the “delay in the beginning that process is not helping.”
While he stated that the prisoner discussions would be more successful in that environment, he also stated that “we are also prepared to continue with detainee conversations during” the present pause.
Former President Donald Trump’s departure from the nuclear agreement in 2018 was reversed by the Biden administration, which granted sanctions relief in exchange for Iran returning to full compliance with its obligations.
Iran increased its breaches of the accord by running advanced centrifuges and boosting uranium enrichment and heavy water production as the Trump administration increased its “maximum pressure” campaign against it by reimposing sanctions that had been removed under the first deal. It has also declined to respond to queries from the UN’s nuclear inspector regarding possible breaches of other nuclear agreements.