GENEVA (Reuters) - Switzerland confirmed its role on Thursday in the “humanitarian gesture” that led to the release of two detainees, American Michael White and Iranian Majid Taheri, saying it stood ready for “further facilitation” as a neutral intermediary.
White, a U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran since 2018, was freed on Thursday and was on his way back home, his family and President Donald Trump said, while the Iranian-American physician will be allowed to visit Iran, his lawyer said.
In a statement, the Swiss foreign ministry said: “Switzerland confirms its role in the humanitarian gesture that took place today and led to the release of Mr. Michael Ray White and Mr. Majid Taheri. ... Our country stands ready for further facilitation, in accordance with its long-lasting tradition of good offices.”
Mohammad Reza Jabbari, Iran’s ambassador to Switzerland, told French-language Swiss broadcaster RTS on Thursday night: “Concerning Mr. White, he had some coronavirus symptoms, so following a request from the Swiss embassy in Tehran, he was handed over to them and taken care of. As soon as we were sure the test for the coronavirus was negative, he was freed and left Iran today (Thursday) on a Swiss plane.”
He added: “In the case of Mr. White, the Swiss embassy in Tehran was very active. Without an active and positive role of the (Swiss) embassy, it would never have been achieved.”
Switzerland has represented U.S. diplomatic interests in Iran since Washington and Tehran cut ties shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Jonathan Oatis