DOHA: Arch-foes the United States and Iran each released five detainees on Monday in a prisoner swap deal that also gives Tehran access to $6 billion in long-frozen oil funds.
The five Americans freed by Iran, including a businessman arrested in 2015, landed in Doha just before 5:40 pm (1440 GMT) on a Qatari jet, hours after the unblocked funds were credited to Iranian accounts in Qatari banks.
The five were greeted on the tarmac before walking in the setting sun to a terminal building, three of them with their arms round each other’s shoulders.
One of them praised US President Joe Biden for ignoring the political backlash and taking the “incredibly difficult decisions” that freed them.
“Thank you President Biden for ultimately putting the lives of American citizens above politics,” Siamak Namazi said in a statement.
Two of the Iranian detainees arrived in Qatar, Iranian media said. The other three released by the United States have opted to remain there or in a third country, Tehran said.
The trigger for the exchange was the release of the $6 billion in funds, frozen by US ally South Korea under sanctions against Iran, to the Iranian accounts.
Washington has denied the $6 billion is a ransom payment, insisting the money will be used for humanitarian purposes.
“We hope to have total access to the Iranian assets today,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani told a news conference in Tehran earlier on Monday.