Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday that U.S. detention of “innocent Iranian nationals” over alleged involvement in bypassing sanctions is “illegal.”
Nasser Kanaani made the remarks at a weekly press conference in the capital Tehran, commenting on the latest developments regarding the exchange of prisoners between Iran and the United States, according to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry.
“The cruel sanctions are illegal in principle, and imprisoning individuals on the pretext of having roles in bypassing the illegal sanctions is considered a further illegal move,” he was quoted as saying in the statement.
The Iranian government, he added, is in negotiations with the other side concerning the release of the Iranian nationals imprisoned in the United States through countries with goodwill.
Kanaani also dismissed the signing of an informal agreement, or “unwritten understanding,” between Iran and the United States on the former’s curtailed nuclear activities in exchange for the latter’s removal of sanctions as “media speculations.”
Kanaani stressed that Iran has always been and will remain committed to the negotiating table in order to safeguard the rights of its people, and will maintain its strategy and measures based on the principles and policies it has announced.
In an interview with Al-Monitor published on June 14, Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Hamad al-Busaidi, whose country has been playing a mediatory role in the negotiations between Tehran and Washington, said he believed Iran and the United States were nearing an agreement on the release of Americans currently held in Iran.
He also said Iran and the United States were serious about reviving the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The JCPOA was signed between Iran and world powers in July 2015. Under the agreement, Iran accepted certain restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. However, the United States withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reimposed unilateral sanctions on Iran. In response, Iran reduced its nuclear commitments under the agreement.
The negotiations for the revival of the JCPOA commenced in April 2021 in Vienna, Austria. Despite several rounds of talks, no significant breakthrough has been achieved since the latest round in August 2022.