Tehran: A long-anticipated prisoner swap between the US and Iran came through on Monday, after the transfer of $6 billion (approximately €5.63 billion) frozen Iranian funds to Qatari banks, news agencies reported.
"Iranian and US officials have been notified by Qatar that all $6 billion has been transferred from Switzerland to bank accounts in Qatar," the French AFP news agency quoted an anonymous source as saying.
A plane waiting on standby in Tehran flew out five American prisoners, headed for the US via Doha, both the Reuters and AFP news agencies reported, citing unnamed sources. They were speaking on condition of anonymity because the swap was ongoing.
Meanwhile, Iranian media reported that two of the five Iranian prisoners involved in the swap arrived in Qatar on Monday. The other three do not plan on returning to Iran.
The US granted the five Iranians awaiting trial clemency, a US official was cited by AFP as saying. Biden was also preparing to impose new sanctions on Iran's intelligence ministry and former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The deal was brokered by Qatar, which hosted at least eight rounds of indirect meetings between the two countries since March 2022.
What did Iran say?
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani was the first to announce the funds hac been released.
"Fortunately Iran's frozen assets in South Korea were released and, God willing, today the assets will start to be fully controlled by the government and the nation," the Associated Press news agency quoted Kanaani as saying on Monday.
What are the conditions of the deal?
The deal stipulated the release from Iranian custody of five US citizens with dual nationality, who would be flown back to the US via Doha.
In return, the US would release five Iranians. Two of the detainees would return to Iran, while two more would stay in the US at their request, and the fifth would join his family in a fifth country.
The release of the Iranian funds was a key condition. South Korea had blocked the funds, which were due to Tehran through oil sales, under US sanctions imposed after former President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear accord.
The unfreezing of Iran's fund has prompted Republicans to criticize US President Joe Biden for what they said was a ransom payment for US citizens. The White House has defended the deal.
Under the deal, Qatar will ensure the cash is spent on humanitarian goods and not items under US sanctions.