“What the Iranian foreign minister raised in New York just concerns Iranian prisoners in the US or those arrested in other countries at Washington’s request with a number of American criminals in Iran,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi said Thursday, Press TV reported.
He made the remarks in reaction to UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who dismissed what he assumed was Zarif’s suggestion of a prisoner swap for Iranian-British dual citizen, Nazanin Zaghari, who is jailed in Tehran for espionage.
Basically, the prisoner swap offer has nothing to do with Britons, as the case mentioned by British officials is totally different, and the UK government is responsible for her situation, Mousavi added.
Zarif on Wednesday publicly expressed Tehran’s preparedness for a prisoner swap with the US, saying he has been authorized to negotiate the deal with American officials.
“My job is to try to arrange for a deal, an exchange; I did it once, we reached an agreement and I put this offer on the table publicly now: exchange them,” Zarif said at the Asia Society in New York.
Zarif called on Washington to swap all Iranians jailed mostly for alleged violations of US export restrictions and sanctions violations with those imprisoned in Iran.
“We believe their charges are phony. The United States believes charges against these people in Iran are phony. Fine, let’s not discuss that. Let’s have an exchange. I am ready to do it and I have the authority to do it,” he noted.
In his remarks, Zarif particularly referred to Negar Ghodskani, an Iranian woman held in Australia on a US extradition warrant for violation of US sanctions, and called for her release as part of the swap deal he sought to negotiate with the US.
The UK foreign secretary thought Iran was after exchanging Ghodskani with Zaghari, and dismissed Zarif’s proposal as a “vile ploy”. He claimed that there was a "huge difference" between the two women.
"The woman in jail in Australia is facing due process, a proper legal procedure, and she is alleged to have committed a very serious crime," he told reporters in London.
"Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is innocent – she has done nothing wrong,” he claimed.
Zaghari is an Iranian citizen who is currently serving a five-year jail term in Tehran on charges of espionage for the UK.
Iran’s intelligence authorities arrested Zaghari, who also holds a British passport, at Imam Khomeini International Airport in April 2016 as she was about to board a plane to London.