The White House reiterated on Tuesday that reports of the US reaching a prisoner exchange deal with Iran are unfounded, underscoring that a prisoner swap is not part of ongoing talks in Vienna.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki remarked during a briefing that "reports over the weekend that an agreement had been reached to exchange prisoners was not true."
"There is no agreement at this time on the release of these four Americans," she stated, adding that efforts to bring home Americans being detained in Iran have been "raised at the highest level" through direct and indirect channels between Washington and Tehran.
The press secretary further stressed that the topic has not been raised as part of ongoing talks in Vienna, which are meant to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and bring both the US and Iran back into compliance with the nuclear deal's stipulations.
Reports of a possible prisoner swap emerged over the weekend after Iranian state TV reported that Tehran would release four Americans accused of spying in exchange for the release of some $7 billion Iranian oil funds frozen under US sanctions reimposed under the Trump administration.
The source cited by the outlet also indicated that a deal between the UK and Iran had been finalized, and that it would effectively see the release of British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in exchange for the UK paying off a £400 million debt to Iran. The debt dates back to the 1970s, when the UK failed to deliver tanks that Iran had bought at the time.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been imprisoned in Iran since 2016 on spying charges. However, after finishing a five-year sentence, she was recently given an extra year behind bars after being found guilty of propaganda against the Iranian state.
Whereas the US has repeatedly indicated that the reports are untrue, the UK has downplayed the claims and stated discussions over the debt are ongoing.
Both Price and Ron Klain, who serves as the White House chief of staff, rejected the reports on Sunday. Saeed Khatibzadeh, the spokesperson for the Iranian foreign minister's office, also denied the report.