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Iran's Zarif Again Raises The Issue Of Prisoner Exchange With US

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei. May 11, 2020
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei. May 11, 2020

Iran's foreign minister has said the United States has not yet responded to the Islamic Republic's two-year-old offer to exchange prisoners.

Referring to his proposal in 2018 to swap prisoners with the U.S., Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated, "Since then, the Americans have not responded to us and have not yet provided any answer in this regard."

Zarif made his statement at a meeting with parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission on May 11.

In recent days senior Iranian officials have been raising the issue of swapping prisoners with Washington.

Zarif’s assertion that his previous offer has remained unanswered comes after Iran in December released an American-Chinese, Xiyue Wang, in exchange for an Iranian scientist, Masoud Soleimani, held by the United States.

Following the swap, negotiated indirectly in neutral Switzerland, U.S. President Donald Trump thanked Tehran for what he called a "very fair negotiation".

Responding to President Trump's comment, Iranian spokesman Ali Rabiei asserted, "This was merely a swap and ... regarding exchanges, we are ready to act but there are no negotiations.”

According to the spokesman of the parliamentary commission, Zarif said at the meeting that "we do not need to talk (to Washington) for the exchange of prisoners and the swaps could be done in coordination with the U.S. interest section at Switzerland's embassy in Iran."

The government spokesman Rabiei on Monday also repeated Zarif's proposal of two years ago. He insisted that the prisoners' exchange needed no "mediation" and could take place through the U.S. interest section at the Swiss embassy in Tehran.

Zarif also referred to Cyrus Askari (Asgari), a professor at Iran’s Sharif University of Technology, who is behind bars in the U.S. and has been tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Earlier, Reuters had quoted an Iranian diplomat and a U.S. official as saying on May 6 that the United States was expected to surrender Cyrus Askari to Iran as soon as he received his health permit.

Askari was recently acquitted of stealing trade secrets.