Publish: 20 Sep 2023, 12:23 pm
Five Americans freed by Iran in a high-stakes prisoner swap landed back in the United States on Tuesday to a joyous reunion with family members.
The five arrived aboard an executive jet at a military airfield in Fort Belvoir southwest of Washington.
Relatives waved US flags and hugged the freed prisoners as they disembarked from the aircraft, then posed for a group photograph, grinning widely.
"Welcome home," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan posted on X, formerly Twitter.
The former prisoners, including one held for eight years, were part of a rare prisoner exchange between Washington and Tehran, a deal that included the unfreezing of $6 billion in funds frozen by US ally South Korea.
The swap marked a slight thaw in relations between the two countries over a host of issues, including Iran's advances in its nuclear program, although some observers urged caution in viewing the release as a sign of change.
The prisoners arrived on a flight from the Gulf state of Qatar, which helped facilitate the exchange, negotiated over several months. They will receive a medical checkup in the Washington area.
Iran, which does not recognize dual nationalities, is still holding a number of European nationals including Jamshid Sharmahd, a German citizen sentenced to death.
At the United Nations, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Tuesday met Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and voiced the bloc's "strong condemnation" over continued detentions, an EU statement said.
President Joe Biden's administration says that no further US citizens are known to be in Iranian prisons.
It has rejected criticism at home that it was paying "ransom," insisting the money will be used only for humanitarian purposes, with a threat to re-freeze the funds if not.
It insists that it is not relieving sanctions._AFP
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