ROME (Reuters) – Iran is ready to engage in further prisoner swaps after last week exchanging a jailed British-Australian academic with three Iranians detained abroad, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday.
“We can always engage in that, it is in the interests of everybody,” Zarif told an Italian diplomatic conference speaking via video-link. “Iran is ready to reciprocate. We can do it tomorrow. We can also do it today.”
Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a specialist in Middle East politics at the University of Melbourne, had been serving a 10-year sentence for alleged espionage when she was freed on Nov. 25. At the same time, Thailand released three Iranians from its prisons.
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals in recent years, mostly on espionage charges. Rights activists have accused Iran of using them as bargaining chips, something Tehran denies.
Zarif said there were lots of Iranians held “illegally” in U.S., European and African prisons.
Asked if the world could expect more swaps, he said: “I can tell you categorically that yes we can. In fact there are several proposals by Iran on the table. … I have suggested a global exchange of Iranian prisoners.”
He did not give any details.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Jon Boyle and Alexandra Hudson)