US President Joe Biden thanks Qatar for helping with historic prisoner swap with Iran
Qatar was witness to a historic event on Monday evening when five US citizens descended a Qatar Airways flight to be greeted jubilantly by US diplomats.
The five US citizens had left Iran and landed in Doha as part of a prisoner swap with Iran. It was a rare moment of cooperation between the long-time antagonists.
US President Joe Biden welcomed the move and thanked his allies — including Qatar — for helping secure their release.
“Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Sharghi, and two citizens who wish to remain private will soon be reunited with their loved ones — after enduring years of agony, uncertainty, and suffering,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House on Monday.
“I’m grateful to our partners at home and abroad for their tireless efforts to help us achieve this outcome, including the governments of Qatar, Oman, Switzerland, and South Korea.
“I give special thanks to the Amir of Qatar, HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and to the Sultan of Oman, HM Haitham bin Tariq, both of whom helped facilitate this agreement over many months of difficult and principled American diplomacy,” said Biden.
A Qatar Airways plane flew the five US citizens, as well as two of their relatives, out of Tehran after both sides got confirmation $6bn had been transferred from South Korea to Qatari accounts, a source told Reuters.
It had been known for several weeks that the US and Iran were negotiating a prisoner exchange.
In August, Iran’s judiciary released several US citizens from detention and transferred them to house arrest in apparent preparation for the swap.
The most famous prisoner to be exchanged was Namazi, a businessman who holds both US and Iranian citizenship. He was imprisoned in 2015 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage.
Part of the arrival of United States detainees, held by the Islamic Republic of Iran, at Doha International Airport, in implementation of the Qatari-mediated agreement between the two countries.#MOFAQatar pic.twitter.com/zRI1ayZzxe— Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Qatar (@MofaQatar_EN) September 18, 2023
On the US side, five Iranians who were convicted or charged with ‘non-violent crimes’ are being granted clemency.
As part of the deal, Iran had demanded the release of about $6bn in funds that were frozen in South Korea because of international sanctions.
Footage of the arrival of United States detainees, held by the Islamic Republic of Iran, at Doha International Airport, in implementation of the Qatari-mediated agreement between the two countries.#MOFAQatar pic.twitter.com/TLg5ZKHUVD— Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Qatar (@MofaQatar_EN) September 18, 2023
While Republicans have criticised Biden for paying what they say amounts to ransom for the US detainees, Biden aides argue the money belongs to Iran and is being transferred from South Korea to Qatari accounts, where it can only be spent on food, medicine and other humanitarian items with US oversight.
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