Iran says frozen assets in ROK, jailed citizens in U.S. to be released soon

Iran's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that banks of the Republic of Korea (ROK) are unfreezing Iran's assets, and a number of "illegally" jailed Iranians in the United States will be soon released.

The ministry said in a statement that the country's funds "had been illegally frozen in the ROK's banks for a few years by the United States," adding that "Iran has obtained the necessary guarantees from the U.S. for its continued commitment to obligations in this regard."

It is estimated that Iran has funds worth over $7 billion in the ROK's two banks, which refuse to process them for fear of possible U.S. penalties.

In addition to the efforts to release the country's "illegally" frozen assets, the ministry said it also works to realize "the freedom of a number of innocent Iranians, who have been illicitly arrested and imprisoned in the U.S. on the baseless accusation of bypassing the U.S. sanctions."

Several of the Iranians jailed in the U.S. would soon be released, it said, adding that Iran still holds several American prisoners whose release is being pursued by the U.S. government.

Over the past months, Iran has repeatedly expressed its readiness to swap prisoners with the U.S. as a humanitarian issue under the precondition that the latter acts "realistically."

In an interview with Al-Monitor published on June 14, Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Hamad al-Busaidi, whose country has been playing a mediatory role in the negotiations between Tehran and Washington, said he believed the two countries were nearing an agreement on exchanging prisoners.

Iran has allowed four detained U.S. citizens to move into house arrest from Tehran's Evin prison, and a fifth was already under home confinement, according to Reuters.

White House National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson confirmed that the five were all out of prison and under house arrest, saying they should never have been detained and the White House would have little more to add because talks for their eventual release "remain ongoing and are delicate."

"My belief is that this is the beginning of the end of their nightmare," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a press conference in Washington, but cautioned that it was just the first step in a process. "There's more work to be done to actually bring them home."

Iran's mission to the United Nations said in a statement: "As part of a humanitarian cooperation agreement mediated by a third-party government, Iran and the U.S. have agreed to reciprocally release and pardon five prisoners. The transfer of these prisoners to out of prison marks a significant initial step in the implementation of this agreement."

(With input from Xinhua, Reuters)

(Cover: The flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran. /CFP)

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