DUBAI: British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and dual national Anoosheh Ashoori flew out of Iran on Wednesday, ending a long ordeal during which they became a bargaining chip in Iran’s talks with the West over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Omani state television said the pair had arrived in the capital Muscat following their release in Tehran.
Earlier, a video aired by Iran’s Tasnim news agency, affiliated to the elite Revolutionary Guards, showed a woman dressed in black Iranian Islamic clothes, boarding a Royal Air Force of Oman aircraft.
“I am very pleased to confirm that the unfair detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori in Iran has ended today, and they will now return to the UK,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard said the long ordeal appeared to finally be over. “It’s just a relief, the idea that we can go back to being a normal family, that we don’t have to keep fighting, that this long journey is almost over,” he told Reuters outside his London home.
A statement from Ashoori’s family thanked everyone who had worked towards his release. “1672 days ago our family’s foundations were rocked when our father and husband was unjustly detained and taken away from us.
“Now, we can look forward to rebuilding those same foundations with our cornerstone back in place.”
Antonio Zappulla, CEO of Zaghari-Ratcliffe employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said her release was “a ray of light and hope” at a time when the world was in turmoil. The foundation is a charity that operates independently of Thomson Reuters and its news subsidiary Reuters.
In February, as months of talks on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal inched closer to an agreement, Iran, which holds a dozen of Western dual nationals, said it was ready for a prisoner swap in return for the unblocking of frozen assets and release of Iranians held in Western jails.
The nuclear talks were close to an agreement 11 days ago until last-minute Russian demands for sweeping guarantees that would have hollowed out sanctions imposed following its invasion of Ukraine threw the negotiations off track.
Russia now appears to have narrowed its demands to cover only work linked to the nuclear deal, leaving a small number of issues to be resolved between Washington and Tehran, diplomats say.