Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has received a phone call from United States President Joe Biden who has thanked the Gulf nation’s emir for his help in mediating a landmark prisoner swap deal with Iran.
The emir’s office said in a statement on Tuesday that Biden spoke positively of Doha’s “active and constructive” efforts in global politics.
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“During the call, the strategic relations between the two countries and aspects of supporting and strengthening them in various fields were reviewed,” the Amiri Diwan, or the emir’s office, said in the statement.
The phone call came days after Iran and the US exchanged five prisoners held in their respective countries, part of a deal that also included the unfreezing of $6bn in Iranian funds.
The deal was reached amid tensions between the US and Iran after Washington unilaterally withdrew from a nuclear agreement in 2018.
Five US citizens previously detained by Iran were flown to the Qatari capital of Doha on September 18. The US also released five Iranian prisoners.
Biden later said the swap deal had brought an end to “years of agony, uncertainty, and suffering” for those detained.
However, relations between Washington and Tehran remain highly strained, with few signs of improving anytime soon, even as Iran and US ally Saudi Arabia take cautious steps towards easing tensions after years of competing for influence throughout the region.
Several rounds of indirect negotiations have failed to revive the former nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in which Iran accepted curbs on its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from US sanctions.
Other events, such as Iran’s harsh crackdown on protesters, the alleged sale of drones to Russia in support of its war in Ukraine and the seizure of oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, have also contributed to deteriorating relations.
The prisoner swap was also politically contentious in the US, with more hawkish lawmakers in Congress slamming it as a concession to Iran.
The Biden administration defended the agreement, saying it allowed what the US maintained were people wrongfully detained in Iran to return home.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies