On 18 July, Iran's top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi accused Washington and London of holding prisoner exchange talks "hostage" after Tehran proposed to delay the nuclear talks until its new government comes into office in August. According to Araghchi's tweet, the sides agreed on a humanitarian exchange, and 10 prisoners on all sides can be released on 18 July if the US and the UK fulfill their part of the deal. US State Department spokesman Ned Price rejected the remarks as "an outrageous effort to deflect blame from the current impasse," saying there is no agreed deal yet.
"'Outrageous'=the US denying simple fact that 'there IS an agreed deal on the matter of the detainees.' Even on how to announce it. Humanitarian swap was agreed with US & UK in Vienna-separate from JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]- on release of 10 prisoners on all sides. Iran is ready to proceed TODAY," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted.
The exchange of prisoners has long been a sensitive issue in the Iranian-US relationship. Their partial swap took place in 2016, a year after the JCPOA was signed, and in 2019. In early May, both Tehran and Washington rejected media reports on new agreements reached by the countries on the prisoners’ exchange.
Iran and the US, however, have admitted they are engaging in indirect talks brokered by Switzerland to finalise an exchange of prisoners. Both sides noted a progress in the negotiations last week.