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US-Iran swap

‘Switzerland played a fundamental role’

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Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter has been explaining the active role played by Switzerland in Sunday’s exchange of prisoners between Iran and the United States. (RTS/swissinfo.ch)

On Monday, three Iranian-Americans arrived in Germany after leaving Tehran in a prisoner swap that followed the lifting of most international sanctions on Iran. US President Barack Obama said the deal cut off Tehran’s path to a nuclear bomb. One more Iranian-American released under the same swap was not aboard the aircraft. A fifth prisoner was released separately on Saturday.

Iran released the prisoners in exchange for pardons or charges dropped against seven Iranians – six of whom hold dual US citizenship – serving time for or accused of sanctions violations in the United States.

The prisoner deal was the culmination of months of behind-the-scenes contacts, secret talks and legal manoeuvring that came close to falling apart on at least one occasion. Didier Burkhalter said it was Switzerland's “confidence and energy” that helped the deal to succeed. 

US President Barak Obama thanked the Swiss government, which represents US interests in Iran, for its “critical assistance”.