Should the current trajectory remain consistent, Qatar’s intricate and mediation diplomacy could achieve yet another major breakthrough.
Iran and the United States are reportedly set to conduct a milestone prisoner exchange in Qatar for the first time in the coming weeks, according to reports.
Doha is also expected to cover the expenses associated with unfreezing Iran’s assets that are held in a restricted account in South Korea, as per agreements for the potential prisoner exchange, insider sources told Amwaj.media
The developments have yet to be publicly confirmed by authorities in Doha, however it comes after Qatar confirmed its role in mediating between the decades-old foes to finalise an agreement to secure the release of five American detainees in Iran.
If it goes ahead, Qatar would host the exchange for the first time. In previous cases, such swaps between Tehran and Washington were held in Oman, Switzerland, or the United Arab Emirates.
Acting as intermediaries between the decades-old foes over the past two years, Qatari diplomats have worked diligently to help bridge the gap and facilitate an elusive agreement between the two sides in the country.
As it stands, Iran and the US have reached a consensus on the fresh exchange of prisoners. This arrangement has involved the release of five Iranian-Americans on house arrest.
Now, the Iranian-Americans prisoners have moved to a hotel in Iran, where they are under house arrest until the anticipated swap occurs next month. Close family members are permitted to visit them during this time, Amwaj.media reported.
In return, four Iranians held in custody by the US will be released, reports said.
Washington has also made a commitment to allow Iran to access around $6 billion worth of Iranian assets that are currently held in South Korean banks.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Tehran has received the necessary assurances from the US regarding the process to unfreeze several billion dollars of Iranian assets that were illicitly frozen by the US in South Korea.
On top of taking on the role to organise the exchange, the Gulf country will also reportedly cover the expenses associated with converting South Korean wons (KRW) to euros.
Iran’s monetary holdings in South Korea will be relocated to Switzerland, where approximately 8 trillion KRW will be converted into euros, Amwaj.media learnt. The process remains unclear as to whether the funds will initially require conversion into US dollars before being transformed into euros.
Drawing on the agreed-upon procedure, reliable sources privy to the matters in the region clarified that the funds will be relocated from South Korea, converted through transactions in Switzerland, and subsequently transferred to Qatar in several instalments.
The entire process of converting the currency and transferring the funds is anticipated to span a duration of four to six weeks for its fulfillment. Following this sequence, both Tehran and Washington will proceed with the release of their respective groups of detainees.
The exact amount that Doha has committed for the currency conversion is not clear, but it is anticipated to be a substantial sum, likely reaching millions of dollars, Amwaj.media reported.
This aspect, coupled with Qatar’s established banking system and expertise required to oversee Iranian finances, has positioned Doha as a central figure in executing the arrangement.
The manoeuvre will grant Iran complete access to these financial reserves, designated exclusively for specific transactions that are not subject to sanctions that were imposed on the Islamic Republic when the US unilaterally abandoned the nuclear agreement in May 2018 under the former Trump administration.
The extensive US sanctions on Iranian banks have significantly limited Iran’s capacity to fund essential humanitarian imports.
This intensification of sanctions has dire implications for the health of Iranians and their ability to obtain necessary medicines, and has led to documented shortages, spanning from vital epilepsy drugs to essential chemotherapy medications for cancer patients in Iran, as reported by Human Rights Watch.
Should the scenario unfold as agreed, Qatar’s intricate diplomacy will have yielded a significant agreement between adversaries whose relationship has been strained over the many years.