TEHRAN, Iran

Iran said Tuesday negotiations on a prisoner exchange with the United States are underway, reaffirming readiness to release all Americans languishing in Iranian jails.

Addressing a weekly press conference in Tehran, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said Tehran is ready to release American prisoners in exchange for Iranians imprisoned across the world at the behest of the US.

His remarks came in response to US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley’s comments earlier this week in which he said Washington will not accept a “partial deal” in its prisoner swap negotiations with Tehran.

Rabiei said Iran had expressed its willingness to exchange prisoners during the previous US administration, claiming that it “refused to sit at the negotiating table”.

He, however, added that the Biden administration has taken up the issue.

On Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the issue of prisoner swap figures high on the ministry’s agenda.

Negotiations over the exchange of prisoners are being held parallel to the talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. In both cases, Europeans are playing the role of mediators as Iran has refused to engage directly with the US.

The issue of prisoners has long been a thorny issue in relations between the two arch adversaries.

In January 2016, a group of five Americans was released by Iran in exchange for seven Iranians jailed in the US. It came shortly after the historic nuclear accord was signed by the two sides.

The efforts to revive the nuclear accord, which the US abandoned in May 2018, have been underway for several months now, but key disagreements remain unresolved.

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