Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his nation is open to the possibility of a prisoner swap with the U.S., but it would require a “change of attitude” and “language” first.
“You do not engage in negotiations by exercising disrespect for a country, for its people, for its government, by openly making claims, including this illusion about regime change,” Zarif told “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan in a clip of the interview that will air in full on CBS on Sunday.
The Wall Street Journal reported in February that the Trump administration has secretly sought to open communications with Iran about a potential prisoner swap.
Such a deal was struck in 2016, when the Obama administration released seven Iranians in exchange for four dual-national Americans detained in Iran, on the same day the nuclear deal was formally implemented.
The later disclosure of a $400 million cash payment to Iran, settling a dispute from the 1970s, led then-candidate Donald Trump to call the entire affair a “disgrace” and claim the money was a ransom payment.
Amid a breakout of Iranian electoral protests in January, President Trump tweeted: “Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!”
Zarif and Iranian officials have criticized the Trump administration’s rhetoric toward Iran and in particular the strong skepticism of the Obama administration-led nuclear deal. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said last weekend that Trump is likely to quit the deal later this month, after efforts to renegotiate the pact have gone nowhere.
“It’s not an offer, it’s a demand,” Zarif said of the proposed talks. “But before, before you make demands, the United States needs to learn how to treat other sovereign nations. Particularly sovereign nations who do not depend on the United States for continued existence and who can live without U.S. support, not only for two weeks, but for 40 years.”
Washington Post opinion writer Jason Rezaian, a former prisoner of the Iranian regime, wrote in the newspaper on Thursday that time was running out for the at least five other U.S. citizens currently being held in the country — including Xiyue Wang, a Princeton graduate student; and 81-year-old Baquer Namazi, whose declining health led Iranian officials to grant him a brief, four-day leave. It’s unclear how many Iranian nationals are in U.S. prisons, but in early February a former employee of Iran’s United Nations mission was convicted of tax fraud and evading sanctions.