The US and Iran have reached a deal that will free five Americans in exchange for the US releasing some Iranians and granting Tehran limited access to $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Sources told the Times that the negotiations have been going on quietly for two years. Prisoner exchanges have typically been kept separate from other issues between the US and Iran.
As part of the first step in the agreement, Iran has released five Iranian American dual citizens from prison and put them on house arrest at a hotel where they will spend a few weeks before flying to the US. Most of them were jailed over spying allegations.
The White House confirmed in a statement that the five Americans were released on house arrest, but the Times said the Biden administration has declined to confirm what Iran will get in return. Sources told the paper that the US has agreed to release several Iranians who were arrested for alleged sanctions violations.
The US will also place $6 billion in frozen Iranian oil profits in an account that will be controlled by Qatar. Iran will only be able to access the funds to pay for humanitarian goods, such as medicine and food.
Tensions have been soaring between the US and Iran in the Persian Gulf, but the news is a sign that there is still room for diplomacy between the two countries. A series of media reports earlier this year said the US and Iran were close to some sort of interim nuclear deal, but such an agreement never materialized.