Dec 10, 2019, 4:18 PM
Journalist ID: 2078
News Code: 83589246
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Iran says prisoners exchanged without direct talks

Tehran, Dec 10, IRNA - A senior Iranian official said on Tuesday that Iran and the US swapped prisoners without holding direct talks after Iran's scientist Masoud Soleimani was exchanged with Chinese-born Princeton graduate Xiyue Wang who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage in Iran in 2017. 

Mohsen Baharvand, an aide to Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told IRNA on Tuesday that the Iranian government thought about many aspects of the swap, especially the humanitarian aspect. 

“There were previously some talks about the two Iranian and American prisoners who were swapped. Zarif had talked about it on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in an interview. Some others such as former US ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson talked with Zarif, but we didn’t hold direct talks with the US government, meaning that we didn’t sit down for talks with them,” Baharvand told IRNA. 

He added that Richardson didn’t hold any official mandate from the US government and his talks with Zarif didn’t help the exchange. 

Baharvand, who is also, Director General of the Americas at Iran’s Foreign Ministry, added that Iran received a message from the US government through the Swiss Embassy four months after Zarif held talks with Richardson. 

He mentioned that the message called on Iran to consider invalid all talks about prisoners except for negotiations and mandates from the US State Department. 

The Iranian official expressed gratitude for the Swiss Embassy for playing as the mediator between Iran and the US. 


According to Baharvand, Iran offered to exchange one US prisoner for one Iranian inmate in a bid to test the US government’s will and intentions. 

He said that Iran decided to exchange prisoners without holding talks as “such an issue is very simple and it doesn’t require any negotiations".  

The US government had asked for direct talks about the two prisoners and other Americans who were once in Iran and have not been traced so far and that Iran then made the same request about its open cases in the US. 

Iran used its own airplane, Baharvand noted, to bring back the Iranian scientist after the US said it would do the same. 

However, under Iran’s laws, using the Foreign Ministry official plane can be done if foreign minister travels in it so Zarif was in the plane as well. 

Iranian scientist arrested at Chicago airport last year and convicted on charges of violating US trade sanctions was exchanged with Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang, imprisoned since 2017. 

Baharvand, who was charged with receiving the Iranian scientist and releasing the American one, stressed that Zarif was in contact with him after 10 a.m. after leaving the hotel. 

“Brian Hook, representing the US and I representing Iran, entered an impartial area that was determined by the Swiss. We exchanged the prisoners without holding any talks. We came back and Zarif boarded the plane,” he explained. 

“I and Hook saw each other in the room. Sat down at a table. They wanted to start talking to us but we didn’t have any directions to talk about anything. So, when the Swiss mediator told us to talk if we wanted, we told him that Iran’s foreign ministry doesn’t do anything other than the one dictated by the political establishment,” Baharvand said about the moment that he was in one room facing Brian Hook. 

Currently, there are 20 Iranian nationals held by the US while there are some six American nationals imprisoned in Iran. 


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