The Chips on the Table

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Iranian authorities released two British-Iranians from prison Wednesday following years of talks between Iran and Britain to negotiate their freedom as well as the settling of a decades-old debt, Politico reported.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Wednesday that the dual nationals, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoush Ashoori, were flying back to Britain. She added that a third individual, Morad Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent, had been “released from prison on furlough.”

The two dual nationals finally reunited with their families in Britain in the early hours of Thursday, according to BBC.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Ashoori and Tahbaz were detained in Iran on a variety of charges, including plotting against the Iranian government, espionage and “acquiring illegitimate wealth.” The defendants had denied the allegations.

Their release came after Britain and Iran finally settled a debt of more than $500 million owed to Tehran after an order of 1,500 Chieftain tanks was canceled. The issue had been a sticking point in the countries’ diplomatic relations since the 1970s.

Britain had tried to pay the debt but had spent years litigating the amount and finding ways to overcome sanctions imposed against Iran. Truss said the debt had been “settled in full compliance” that the money “will be ring-fenced solely for the purchase of humanitarian goods.”

The British government, however, refused to acknowledge a link between the debt and the prisoners’ release, according to the Associated Press.

US Democratic congressman Jim Himes expressed dismay that Tahbaz was released on furlough and accused Britain of breaking a verbal agreement with Washington to negotiate the release of all three dual-nationals as part of a single package.

Human rights groups have accused Iran of holding dual-nationals as bargaining chips for money or influence in negotiations with the West. Iran has denied the accusations.

The recent releases took place as US and European negotiators are working to finalize an agreement that would limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the relaxation of economic sanctions against the country.

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