Five U.S. citizens are scheduled to be exchanged late Monday for five Iranians held in U.S. custody after $6 billion of sanctioned Iranian funds were released by South Korea.
South Korea forwarded the money to Switzerland before it was transferred to banks in Doha, Qatar, under terms of an agreement brokered by the Biden administration.
The agreement, announced August 10, aims to address one of the longstanding issues between the two nations, though they continue to disagree on other issues.
“Today, 5,573,492,000 euros [almost $6bn] were wired to the accounts of the Iranian banks with Ahlibank and Dukhan Bank in Qatar,” announced Iran’s central bank chief Mohammad Reza Farzin.
He confirmed the funds previously frozen in South Korea were transferred via Switzerland to Qatar.
Farzin added Iran will demand compensation for the funds that were sanctioned. Currency fluctuations lowered the value of Iran’s reserves from $7 billion while they were frozen by South Korea, he claimed.
Preparations are underway to receive the freed prisoners at Doha International Airport, according to a report from Al Jazeera. The report noted U.S. citizens had not arrived by Monday morning.
Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, in a conversation with NBC News, emphasized Iran’s autonomy over the released funds.
“[It] belongs to the Iranian people, the Iranian government, so the Islamic Republic of Iran will decide what to do with this money,” said Raisi.
The Biden administration stipulated that once the funds reach Qatar, they must be placed in restricted accounts designated solely for humanitarian purposes like medicine and food.
Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, a former Qatari envoy to the U.N., highlighted Qatar’s pivotal role in facilitating this agreement.
He mentioned Qatari officials have mediated between Tehran and Washington for two years to finalize the prisoner swap. He expressed optimism about the positive implications of the agreement for regional stability.
Three of the five U.S. citizens have been identified. They include Siamak Namazi, who was detained in 2015, Emad Sharghi, a venture capitalist, and Morad Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent.
Both Namazi and Sharghi were sentenced to 10 years on charges that have faced international criticism. The identities of the remaining two prisoners have not been disclosed by U.S. officials.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani conveyed optimism about the completion of the exchange process by the end of Monday.
“It will happen today and five prisoners, citizens of the Islamic Republic, will be released from the prisons in the US,” he said.
Kanani hinted at the possibility of indirect talks in New York concerning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Obama administration’s nuclear accord with Iran that former President Donald Trump withdrew from.