Qatar and Great Britain are acting as brokers to secure a deal to free Americans imprisoned in Iran, NBC News reports.
The United States and Iran are in indirect talks to secure a possible prisoner exchange, with Qatar and the United Kingdom acting as mediators, NBC News reported, citing four unidentified sources.
The US news outlet said on Wednesday that talks were “advancing”, but it remained unclear whether a deal could be reached soon.
A possible deal would see Tehran release American prisoners in its custody as part of a prisoner exchange. Washington would also allow the release of billions of dollars in Iranian assets frozen by South Korea under US sanctions, according to NBC sources.
The use of the money would be limited to the purchase of food, medicine and other humanitarian needs, the sources said. The news agency also reported that a third country, possibly Qatar, could potentially oversee the transfer of assets.
The report comes amid stalled efforts to revive a 2015 multilateral nuclear deal under which Tehran scaled back its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions against its economy.
Former US President Donald Trump scrapped the agreement in 2018, but his successor, Democrat Joe Biden, has said he intends to return to the accord. However, numerous rounds of indirect negotiations over the past two years have failed to renew the pact.
US-Iranian relations have been further complicated by the crackdown on anti-government protests in Iran and accusations by Washington that Tehran has supplied Russia with drones to be used against Ukraine.
Iran is currently detaining at least three American citizens – Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz – who the US State Department says are being unjustly detained.
Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman who has been in prison since 2015 on charges of collaborating with a hostile government, went on hunger strike last month. He also wrote a letter to Biden — delivered by his lawyer — urging the administration to push for his release.
“We are working tirelessly to bring him home along with all US citizens wrongfully imprisoned in Iran,” a National Security Council spokesman said last month. “Iran’s illegal detention of American citizens for political influence is outrageous.”
In addition to efforts to free the prisoners, Washington remains committed to not allowing Tehran to obtain nuclear weapons, which Tehran denies it is seeking.
During a visit to Israel last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he discussed with Israeli officials the possibility of “deepening cooperation to confront and counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and beyond.”