A US document seen by Reuters said on Monday that the United States had issued an exception to sanctions to allow the transfer of six billion dollars in frozen Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar, in a necessary step to implement a previously announced prisoner swap agreement between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
On August 10, the broad outlines of the US-Iran agreement were announced under which five US citizens detained by Iran will be allowed to leave in exchange for the transfer of funds and the release of five Iranians detained in the United States.
The US State Department document stated that Secretary of State Antony Blinken decided that the exception to the sanctions was in the national security interest of the United States.
The document sent to US Congressional committees contains the first official acknowledgment from the US government that it will release five Iranians detained in the United States as part of an agreement to free the five US citizens.
“To facilitate their release, the United States has pledged to release five Iranian nationals currently detained in the United States and allow the transfer of approximately six billion dollars of Iranian funds held in restricted accounts in South Korea to restricted accounts in Qatar, where the funds will only be available, to Trade for humanitarian purposes”.
The document reveals that the money transfer would provide only limited benefit to Iran because the money could only be used for trade and humanitarian purposes.
It stated, “Allowing the transfer of these funds from restricted Iranian accounts located in South Korea to accounts in Qatar for trade for humanitarian purposes is necessary to facilitate the release of these US citizens”.
White House spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement late Monday that Secretary Blinken on September 8 took a procedural step in an ongoing process to ensure that Iranian funds can be moved from one restricted account to another and remain restricted from commerce for humanitarian purposes.
She said the US administration has kept Congress informed of the operation since its inception
“As we have said from the beginning, what is being followed here is an arrangement whereby we will ensure the release of five unjustly detained Americans,” she added.
“This remains a sensitive and ongoing process… While this is a step in the process, no one has been or will be released from prison in the United States this week”.
Eight Iranian sources and other sources familiar with the negotiations reported that the $6 billion sum could be transferred and prisoners exchanged as early as next week.
The document added that the exception applies to certain financial institutions that fall within the primary jurisdiction of Germany, Ireland, Qatar, South Korea and Switzerland to engage in transactions with the National Iranian Oil Company, the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian financial institutions subject to US sanctions.