Friday, September 22, 2023

The five Americans freed by Iran have arrived in the United States

(Washington) Five Americans, including one who had been detained by Iran for eight years, returned to the United States on Tuesday, thanks to an agreement between Washington and Tehran facilitated by the release of $6 billion in frozen Iranian oil revenues.

Posted at 8:08 a.m. Updated at 12:21 p.m.

Daxia ROJAS Agence France-Presse

They landed at dawn at a military base near Washington, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Welcome home,” Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security advisor, reacted on X, publishing a photograph of the freed Americans accompanied by diplomats on the plane that took them to the United States.

Other photos showed former inmates, all smiles, kissing their loved ones at the Fort Belvoir military base in Virginia.

“It is really nice to be able to say that our fellow citizens are now free,” the head of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, congratulated himself on Monday, justifying once again the agreement with Tehran, highly criticized in the United States by the Republican opposition.

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Joe Biden had an “emotional” conversation with the families of these Americans, the White House also said.

Stop in Doha

The former American prisoners, including one detained for eight years, and two members of his family left Tehran on Monday morning aboard a Qatari flight bound for Doha, where they stopped before taking off for the United States.

A transfer of Iranian funds frozen in South Korea, worth $6 billion, was also announced in Doha, Qatar having been one of the mediators of the agreement, and confirmed by Iran.

This transfer was part of the agreement, as was the release of five Iranian prisoners by the United States on Monday.

Among the five Iranian-Americans released are businessman Siamak Namazi, arrested in 2015 and sentenced to ten years in prison in 2016 for espionage, Morad Tahbaz, who also has British nationality, and Emad Sharqi, an investor sentenced to ten years in prison. prison. prison for espionage. The other two did not want to be identified.

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Relative appeasement

According to some experts, this agreement demonstrates a relative relaxation of tensions between Iran and the United States, but does not prejudge a possible agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue.

Washington remains “unwavering in its commitment that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon,” Joe Biden recalled on Tuesday from the podium of the UN General Assembly in New York.

His Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raïssi, responded on Tuesday night, also before the General Assembly, that the United States should “end” its sanctions regime against Tehran, reinforced after the failure of the 2015 international agreement on the civil nuclear program. of the Islamic Republic.

This agreement was shattered in 2018 with the unilateral withdrawal of then-US President Donald Trump.

Since then, “sanctions have not produced the desired results,” Raïssi stated in a virulent speech against Washington and the West.

France, which supports the principle of an Iranian nuclear deal and believes that four of its citizens are currently arbitrarily detained in Iran, however warned against the risk of linking the two issues.

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“We must be careful and distinguish this issue from that of nuclear energy,” stressed the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, present in New York.

“We are not naive,” said Charles Michel, president of the European Council. “We observed the brutal repression” in Iran and “the use of hostages by the authorities to pressure governments.”

“There will be progress towards greater stability and security, but we do not underestimate the level of tensions and difficulties,” he added.

The United States insisted that this was not a “blank check” offered to Iran and that the use of frozen Iranian funds, under “strict supervision,” was intended “for humanitarian purposes” only.

The money that has been “cruelly blocked until now and is currently in the possession of the Islamic Republic belongs to the (Iranian) people and we will use it to meet the needs of the people,” Raissi had previously declared upon arrival. In New York.

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