US blasts 'outrageous' comments by Iran

Biden administration lashes out at Iran for accusing the US of delaying prisoner swap to force a quick resumption of indirect nuclear talks.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

US State Department
US State Department

The Biden administration on Saturday lashed out at Iran after the Islamic Republic accused Washington of delaying a proposed prisoner swap to force a quick resumption of indirect nuclear talks, The Associated Press reported.

The State Department slammed as “outrageous” comments made by Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, who alleged the US and Britain were holding the swap “hostage” to the negotiations over salvaging the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Araghchi tweeted earlier on Saturday that the nuclear talks in Vienna could not resume until Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi is inaugurated in early August.

The nuclear talks “must thus obviously await our new administration. This is what every democracy demands,” Aragchi said. He added that the US and Britain “need to understand this and stop linking a humanitarian exchange — ready to be implemented — with the JCPOA.”

In response to Aragchi's remarks, State Department spokesman Ned Price categorically rejected the claim, denied there was already an agreement on a swap, and said the US was prepared to continue talks on prisoners even while waiting for the resumption of the nuclear negotiations.

“These comments are an outrageous effort to deflect blame for the current impasse on a potential mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA,” Price said, according to AP. “We stand ready to return to Vienna to complete work on a mutual return to the JCPOA once Iran has made the necessary decisions.”

Price called Aragchi's reference to the possible imminent release of 10 prisoners on all sides “just another cruel effort to raise the hopes of their families.”

“If Iran were truly interested in making a humanitarian gesture, it would simply release the detainees immediately," he added.

Former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal, and Iran has gradually scaled back its claimed compliance in response to the withdrawal, continuing to do so as the US began indirect talks with Iran on a return to compliance with the agreement.

The talks in Vienna have involved diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia who met the Iranian representatives, while US diplomats participated indirectly in the talks from a nearby hotel.

The US and European Union both said recently that more work was needed to revive the 2015 deal, while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the "negotiations have achieved 60-70 percent progress."

Iran has insisted on a removal of all sanctions imposed on it, while the Biden administration has insisted that some will remain if they were imposed over other concerns, including human rights and Iran's support for extremist movements.