A State Department spokesperson said Washington continues to work on seeking the release of Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz.
Iran has welcomed Qatari mediation efforts to push for a prisoner exchange between the US and the Islamic Republic, the foreign ministry said on Monday.
The statement confirms earlier reports that revealed the Gulf nation as well as the United Kingdom are reportedly mediating indirect talks between the United States and Iran over a possible prisoner exchange.
Earlier this month, Amir-Abdollahian told NPR that discussions on prisoner exchanges were happening with the aid of outside parties. He claimed that the UK represented the US in the discussions, but he made no mention of Qatar.
According to the unnamed sources, the potential trade aims to free American detainees in Tehran. A State Department spokesperson said these include Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz.
However, despite progress in negotiations and Iran’s latest comments, it is still unclear whether a final agreement will be made.
“As we have said, we have ways of communicating with Iran on issues of concern, including on the issue of releasing US citizens wrongfully detained in Iran. Those channels remain open, but we’re not going to detail them,” the US official added.
NBC also mentioned talks between Washington and Tehran on a plan that would see the US release billions of dollars that had been frozen in South Korean banks in exchange for the release of the prisoners.
If made available, the money would only be used for humanitarian, medical, and food needs. According to the potential agreement, Qatar will likely participate to help with the money transfer.
Rumours regarding potential Qatari mediation to secure the release of Iranian Americans and Iranian Europeans imprisoned in Tehran also surfaced last year.
Amir-Abdollahian reportedly asked Qatar for assistance during his trip to Doha in January of last year, according to a previous Reuters report.
“We’re ready to exchange our prisoners, but there are technical steps that need to be taken by the Americans. We are awaiting the technical steps to be taken,” added the Iranian official.
Qatari authorities have yet to publicly comment on efforts to mediate in the prisoner exchange talks.
Nuclear talks stalemate
Tensions between the US and Iran increased after Washington unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), during Donald Trump’s tenure as president.
As part of his “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran, the US also imposed crippling sanctions on Iran in 2018.
However, steps to revive the historic accord has since been discussed though no progress has been made since the initial 2021 Vienna talks. Last year, Qatar intervened by holding a new round of negotiations in its capital.
With those negotiations facing what appears to be a stalemate, Doha has continued to maintain its contact with both sides.
Last month, Sheikh Mohammed met with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Tehran to deliver a message from parties involved in the nuclear talks.
A source with knowledge noted that the Qatari side had “conveyed messages from the US to the Iranians which included points on the prisoner release.”
“The representative in question was in Iran in the past weeks, and we updated the agreement that we had back in March,” he said.