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US Reaches Deal to Trade Frozen Oil Money for Americans in Iranian Custody

© AP Photo / Ebrahim NorooziA man walks past an anti-U.S. mural, painted on the wall of the former U.S. Embassy, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013.
A man walks past an anti-U.S. mural, painted on the wall of the former U.S. Embassy, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013. - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.08.2023
Washington and Tehran have reached a deal to exchange prisoners held in Iranian jails for frozen assets, Iranian diplomats confirmed to Sputnik on Thursday.
“As part of a humanitarian cooperation agreement mediated by a third-party government, Iran and the United States have agreed to reciprocally release and pardon five prisoners. The transfer of these prisoners to out of prison marks a significant initial step in the implementation of this agreement,” the Iranian mission to the United Nations told Sputnik on Thursday, following reports of the deal in US media.
A spokesperson for the US National Security Council confirmed to US media that the five Iranian prisoners had been transferred from prison to house arrest.
"It is a positive step that they were released from prison and sent to home detention," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. "But this is just the beginning of the process that I hope and expect will lead to their return home to the US."
He added that Iran will not be receiving any sanctions relief as a result of the deal.
According to “several people familiar with the deal” who spoke with US media, Washington will also allow the transfer of some $6 billion in oil revenues presently held in a South Korean bank, but frozen due to US sanctions. The arrangement is similar to one reached by then-US President Barack Obama in 2016.
The deal was reportedly more than two years in the making, and officials noted they were not yet completed.

The release of all Americans in Iranian custody was one of the few key sticking points remaining in the more-than-two-year quest by the Biden administration to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

However, it wasn’t the only point: Iran has also reportedly demanded its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be removed from the US State Department’s list of terrorist organizations - a move the US has so far refused. Reports last year suggested Tehran had dropped the demand, but no firm confirmation has been made.
The JCPOA was reached in 2015 and removed US sanctions in exchange for Iran accepting strict limits to its nuclear program, sufficient only for electrical generation and research. However, in 2018, the US unilaterally abrogated the deal and reimposed sanctions, accusing Iran of secretly pursuing nuclear weapons - claims for which it has never presented evidence.
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