The U.S. government is denying reports by Iranian state television on Sunday that the Biden administration agreed to unfreeze $7 billion in Iranian oil assets and release four Iranians held in U.S. custody, in exchange for the release of four American citizens accused of spying.
“Iran’s envoy to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, said the report could not be confirmed, adding that Tehran has always called for a full prisoner exchange with Washington,” Reuters reported. “The state TV, quoting an unidentified Iranian official, also said British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe would be released once Britain had paid off a debt on military equipment owed to Tehran.”
In a statement, State Department spokesperson Ned Price denied the report, saying, “Reports that a prisoner swap deal has been reached are not true.”
“As we have said, we always raise the cases of Americans detained or missing in Iran,” Price said. “We will not stop until we are able to reunite them with their families.”
As noted by the Associated Press (AP), a report from Iranian state television highlighted a source with knowledge of ongoing discussions between the two countries.
The AP’s report added that after the Biden administration denied the reports coming from Iran, Iranian state television doubled down on the claim that a deal was reached.
“Some sources say four Iranian prisoners are to be released and $7 billion are to be received by Iran in exchange for releasing four American spies,” Iranian state television said, according to a translation by the AP. The deal was described as coming due to congressional pressure on President Joe Biden.
When asked about the report on Sunday, White House chief of staff Ron Klain said, “I can tell you, unfortunately, that report is untrue.”
“There is no agreement to release these four Americans,” Klain said. “We’re working very hard to get them released. We raised this with Iran and our interlocutors all the time. But so far there’s no agreement to bring these four Americans home.”
The Biden administration is currently in talks with Iran in Vienna to reinstate the highly controversial 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which former President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.
“We have not yet reached agreement in Vienna which is where the talks between the world powers and Iran are taking place right now,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told ABC News on Sunday. “There’s still fair distance to travel to close the remaining gaps and those gaps are over what sanctions the United States and other countries will roll back. They are over what nuclear restrictions Iran will accept on its program to ensure that they can never get a nuclear weapon. And our diplomats will keep working at that over the coming weeks to try to arrive at a mutual return to the JCPOA, which is the Iran nuclear deal on a compliance-for-compliance basis. So the short answer… is there is no deal now. We’re hoping to continue to make progress and we’re hoping ultimately to achieve the objective that President Biden has laid out.”