$6bln sent to Qatar for US-Iran prisoner swap
The release of frozen funds by South Korea by the US is a vital condition for the exchange of five Americans arrested in Iran and, according to Tehran, five Iranians held in the US.
AFP has reported that frozen Iranian assets totaling $6 billion have been transferred to Qatari banks as part of a US-Iran prisoner swap arrangement, with an aircraft on standby in Tehran to transport five American captives.
The release of the funds by South Korea is a vital condition for the prisoner swap between Washington and Tehran, as five Iranians are being held in the US.
During a phone call with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on September 14, Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said that the transfer of Iran's unfrozen funds in South Korea to bank accounts in Qatar, as part of a prisoner exchange deal with the US, is expected to be completed this week.
According to an informed source, Qatar, acting as a mediator between Washington and Tehran, who do not have diplomatic relations, notified both countries regarding the transfer. Qatar played a key role in mediating talks between Iran and the United States that led to a prisoner exchange deal on August 10.
The transfer of the funds was delayed by more than a month due to a daily limit on the amount of exchange possible for Iranian funds that were in South Korean won.
All frozen funds transferred to bank accounts in Qatar
The anonymous source explained that "Iranian and US officials have been notified by Qatar that all $6 billion has been transferred from Switzerland to bank accounts in Qatar," adding that "A Qatari jet is on standby in Iran to bring the five US citizens and two relatives to Doha."
Iran's foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani expressed during a press conference that Iran hoped to gain access to its assets on Monday, detailing that "the prisoner exchange will take place on the same day and five Iranian citizens imprisoned in America will be released."
According to Iran's Central Bank governor, Iran will seek restitution from South Korea for withholding the payments. On Monday, he added, the equivalent of 5.57 billion euros ($5.95 billion) was put in six Iranian accounts with two Qatari banks.
Mohammadreza Farzin declared on state TV, "We're making a complaint on behalf of Iran against South Korea for not giving access to these funds and the reduction in value of these funds in order to receive damages."
In a September 13 interview with NBC News' Lester Holt in Tehran, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi expressed that his government will make determinations regarding the utilization of the $6 billion based on specific needs and requirements.