US hits Iran for delay in nuclear, prisoner swap talks

AP
Washington Updated: Jul 18, 2021, 11:29 AM(IST)

Ned Price, Spokesman, US Department of State (file photo). Photograph:( AFP )

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For accusing it of delaying a proposed prisoner swap to force a quick resumption of indirect nuclear talks, the Biden administration has lashed out at Iran. The State Department slammed as 'outrageous' comments made by Iran's deputy foreign minister

The Biden administration has lashed out at Iran for accusing it of delaying a proposed prisoner swap to force a quick resumption of indirect nuclear talks.

The State Department slammed as 'outrageous' comments made by Iran's deputy foreign minister, who alleged the US and Britain were holding the swap 'hostage' to the negotiations over salvaging the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.

In a pair of tweets from his verified account, Abbas Aragchi said the nuclear talks in Vienna could not resume until Iran's hardline president-elect is inaugurated in early August.

"We're in a transition period as a democratic transfer of power is underway in our capital," he said.

"The nuclear talks must thus obviously await our new administration. This is what every democracy demands," Aragchi said. He added that the US and Britain 'need to understand this and stop linking a humanitarian exchange ready to be implemented with the JCPOA'.

"Keeping such an exchange hostage to political aims achieves neither," said Aragchi, who is Iran's chief negotiator at the Vienna talks. "10 prisoners on all sides may be released tomorrow if US & UK fulfill their part of deal."

A sixth round of nuclear talks ended last month without agreement ahead of Iran's presidential election won by Ebrahim Raisi.

The US has repeatedly said it is ready for a seventh round as soon as Iran is ready while also calling for the immediate release of American citizens detained in Iran.

In response to Aragchi's remarks, State Department spokesman Ned Price categorically rejected the claim, denied there was already an agreement on a swap, and said the US was prepared to continue talks on prisoners even while waiting for the resumption of the nuclear negotiations.

"These comments are an outrageous effort to deflect blame for the current impasse on a potential mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA," Price said.

"We stand ready to return to Vienna to complete work on a mutual return to the JCPOA once Iran has made the necessary decisions."

Price called Aragchi's reference to the possible imminent release of 10 prisoners on all sides 'just another cruel effort to raise the hopes of their families.' "If Iran were truly interested in making a humanitarian gesture, it would simply release the detainees immediately," he said.

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