The five Americans released as part of a Qatari-brokered prisoner swap deal with Iran have returned to the United States, while two released Iranians have arrived in Tehran.
The plane, carrying the five Americans and two members of their families, landed at an air base in Virginia late on Tuesday local time.
U.S. special envoy for hostage affairs Roger Carstens received former prisoners, including Imad Sharqi, Murad Tahbaz and Siamak Namazi.
The Americans, most of whom are of Iranian origin and one of whom has been detained for more than eight years, arrived yesterday in Doha on a Qatar Airways flight after Iranian authorities released them under a prisoner swap deal reached after months of negotiations.
The Iranian news agency also reported that two of the five released Iranian prisoners arrived in Tehran from Doha in accordance with the Qatari-brokered US-Iran exchange agreement.
A Qatari plane carrying Mehrdad Moeen Ansari and Reza Sarhangpour landed in Tehran, who chose to return to their country of their own volition, according to the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
The other three Iranians chose to remain in the United States, Reuters reported.
The prisoner exchange began yesterday with the transfer of Iranian funds released from South Korea to Iranian accounts registered in two Qatari banks.
Tehran said the money transferred to Iranian accounts in Qatar would be spent based on Iran's needs and priorities.
In Washington, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday that his country has mechanisms to oversee the spending of Iranian funds released under the deal.
Qatar's role is praised
Washington and Tehran praised Qatar's role in reaching the prisoner swap deal.
US President Joe Biden extended special thanks to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq, for their help in facilitating the deal.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also expressed deep appreciation for the role played by Qatar over the past two years in brokering the agreement with Tehran, stressing that the prisoner exchange deal negotiations with Iran are completely separate from Washington's relations with Tehran.
In turn, the Iranian Foreign Ministry appreciated the influential role of the State of Qatar in the process of transferring Iranian financial assets and exchanging prisoners with Washington, and thanked the Sultanate of Oman and Switzerland for their efforts.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called the release of the five dual Americans a "purely humanitarian act" that could open the way for other humanitarian measures in the future between Tehran and Washington.
For his part, Iranian government spokesman Ali Bahadri Jahromi said that the prisoner exchange agreement between Iran and the United States and the release of Iranian frozen funds in South Korea a year ago could have been implemented if Washington had not made a mistake in its calculations.
Jahromi added – in a press conference – that Iranian funds in Qatari banks are now at the disposal of the Central Bank of Iran.
With the entry into force of the US-Iranian agreement on the exchange of prisoners, we thank the parties to the agreement, hoping that it will pave the way for further understandings, and we also thank our partners who contributed to its success, especially the Sultanate of Oman, and we affirm that Qatar continues to contribute to everything that would enhance the security of the region and the world.
— Mohammed bin Abdulrahman (@MBA_AlThani_) September 18, 2023
Meanwhile, Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said he hoped the US-Iran deal on prisoner swaps would pave the way for further understandings.
He added, in a post on the "X" platform (formerly Twitter), that he thanks the parties to the agreement and Qatar's partners who contributed to its success, especially the Sultanate of Oman.
The Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister stressed that Qatar continues to contribute to everything that would enhance the security of the region and the world.
The Minister of State at the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Al-Khulaifi, said that the implementation of the agreement is an indication of the position of the State of Qatar as a reliable international partner in the field of mediation, and the confidence of all parties in its integrity and impartiality.
Al-Khulaifi expressed Qatar's hope that the full implementation of the agreement between the United States and Iran will lead to greater understandings, including a return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
In turn, the South Korean Foreign Ministry confirmed the successful transfer of frozen Iranian funds to a third country as soon as the plane - carrying 5 Americans released by Iran as part of the exchange deal - left Doha airport.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry added that the money in Qatar would be spent on food, medicine and other humanitarian items as was the case when it was in South Korea, Reuters reported.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry also expressed its thanks and appreciation to Qatar and Switzerland for their constructive role in resolving the issue.