0913 GMT May 13, 2021
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said while the issue of prisoners has always been on the country’s agenda, the Sunday evening report by Lebanon’s Arabic-language Al Mayadeen news network is untrue, Press TV reported.
“The issue of prisoners has been a humanitarian issue which has always been on the agenda of the Islamic Republic of Iran and has been pursued through other conversations and [diplomatic] channels separately from the JCPOA or related issues,” Khatibzadeh said.
Al Mayadeen had quoted informed sources as saying that Washington would release four Iranians detained in the US and $7 billion of Iran’s illegally frozen funds in exchange for four Americans detained in Iran.
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price also denied the report on Sunday. “As we have said, we always raise the cases of Americans detained or missing in Iran. We will not stop until we are able to reunite them with their families,” he said.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain similarly said the report was untrue, adding there was no agreement to release the four Americans.
“We’re working very hard to get them released,” Klain told CBS’s Face the Nation. “We raise this with Iran and our interlocutors all the time, but so far there’s no agreement.”
Khatibzadeh also denied reports that Tehran and London had been in talks over the release of Nazanin Zaghari, an Iranian national who was found guilty of propaganda activities against the government last month and sentenced to one year in prison.
“There are no legal talks between us and Britain on this. The Judiciary must comment on the case,” the spokesman said.
“What is being discussed is about issues related to relations between the two countries. Of course, the British government has presented its views to us on various issues, and we have given back very clear answers,” he added.
The remarks came after a British Foreign Office spokesman claimed that “legal discussions are ongoing” to “explore options to resolve” the case.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also claimed Zaghari’s fate was tied to the outcome of talks in Vienna on the future of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement in addition to a debt that the UK government owes to Iran.
Tehran has repeatedly said that the debt Britain owes to Iran arising from the non-delivery of Chieftain tanks ordered by Iran’s former regime is not related to Zaghari's case.
Khatibzadeh said the debt dates back to several decades ago but has not been paid due to unimportant reasons.
“The original debt must have been paid off a long time ago,” the spokesman stated. “The sooner the British government fulfills its obligation, the better.”
He went on to say that only the payment of a small portion of the debt has not been decided, citing the spread of the coronavirus as the reason behind the delay in talks on the issue.
Khatibzadeh expressed Iran’s concerns about the developments in Afghanistan, saying Tehran will do its utmost to ensure peace and stability in the neighboring country.
He said Iran is closely monitoring the developments in Afghanistan and is holding consultations with regional actors about the issue.
“The developments in Afghanistan have concerned us. For the sake of peace, stability and security of Afghanistan, we will use all our good offices to make that country’s future stable,” he added.
Highlighting Iran’s close relations with the Kabul government and Afghan groups, the spokesperson said, “We are in contact with the Afghan government, and have also told the other groups that we can facilitate the talks between the Taliban and the government. We hope the future situation would come with stability.”