According to Reuters, negotiations between Washington and Tehran on the exchange of prisoners have been underway for some time.
The United States has called on Tehran to send a Charter plane so that Iran can pick up 11 citizens that Washington wants to deport. The US also accused the Islamic Republic of halting the repatriation process.
“We have 11 of your citizens who are illegal immigrants, whom we tried to return to your country. You suddenly said that you want them back, so how about we send a Charter plane and, we will return all 11 at once?”, Ken Cuccinelli, acting Deputy Secretary of the US Department of homeland security, said in a tweet.
He added that Washington had been trying for months to bring back Sirus Asgari, an Iranian Professor who was acquitted in November of stealing trade secrets and that Tehran was dragging its feet.
Cuccinelli did not mention the exchange of prisoners between the two countries that led to the severing of diplomatic relations 40 years ago, which according to sources in Iran cited by Reuters, is still in progress. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that Tehran is ready to exchange prisoners.
“In 2018, I announced that the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to exchange all American prisoners in Iran for all Iranians who are in prisons in the United States or ended up in prisons in other countries due to US pressure,” Zarif was quoted as saying by the Iranian Tasnim news agency. “That’s what we’ve been saying for a long time. The Americans haven’t answered us yet.”
Reuters reported last week that the United States had to deport Asgari, who was diagnosed with the coronavirus more than two weeks ago after he received medical permission to leave.
Iranian sources told Reuters that talks on a prisoner exchange between the United States and Iran have been underway for some time and that Washington has been negotiating the release of Michael White. This US Navy veteran has been held in prison in Iran since 2018. He was released in mid-March for medical reasons but remained in Iran.