İrem UZUN -TDO- Iran has said it is ready for a full prisoner exchange with the United States out of fear for the health and safety of Iranians in U.S. jails during the coronavirus outbreak. "We are ready to exchange Iranian and American prisoners and we are prepared to discuss this issue but Americans have not responded yet," Iran Government Spokesman Ali Rabiei said. "We are worried about the safety and health of Iranians in jail... We hold America responsible for Iranians' safety amid the new coronavirus outbreak," he added.
If the exchange occurs, it will be one of the rare cooperations between two countries. In December, Iran freed Xiyue Wang, an American academic, in an exchange for scientist Massoud Soleimani and said it was open to further swaps. The exchange was facilitated by the Swiss government. In March, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Iran to free American prisoners as a “humanitarian gesture” because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The relationship between two countries have grown hostile since President Donald Trump took the office in 2017. The tension escalated in 2018, after Trump withdrawn Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran. Iran has responded by gradually scaling back its commitments under the agreement.