Nazanin Zghari-Ratcliffe (43), and Anoosheh Ashleyoori (67) landed in Oman after a two-hour flight departing from Tehran. They are expected to arrive in Britain on Wednesday night.
According to the British government, a third detainee named Morad Tahbaz (who holds U.S., British, and Iranian citizenship) was released on furlough under the terms of the same agreement.
As world leaders tried to negotiate Iran's return to an international agreement to limit Tehran’s nuclear enrichment program, the breakthrough was achieved. However, the negotiations were hampered by the prisoner question. Although progress has been made, the Russian demands have slowed down negotiations.
Richard Ratcliffe said, "Looking forward for a new life," after he worked tirelessly to secure his wife's release. He planned to meet his wife at a British military base along with their 7-year-old daughter. She had already selected the toys she wanted to show her mother.
"You cannot get back the time that's passed. Ratcliffe stated that this is a fact. "But we live into the future."
As the U.S. and Britain seek to free dozens of Iranian dual nationals, the U.S. and Britain release Zaghari Ratcliffe and Ashoori. Iran doesn't recognize them as citizens. Human rights activists and family members accuse Iran of using dual nationals as bargaining chips to get concessions from Western countries.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss stated to lawmakers that Iran's change of government last summer was crucial in moving the negotiations forward. Ebrahim Raisi is the hardline protector of Iran's supreme ruler, who is known for his hostility towards the West.
Truss stated in the House of Commons that he was able to "reset the relationship", to make it clear that they were serious about solving the remaining issues Iran had.
After extensive diplomatic efforts, which secured the release and agreement to repay the debt in accordance with international and U.K sanctions, Wednesday's announcement was made. Britain agreed to pay Iran 393.8million pounds ($515.5 million). The money will be ring-fenced, so it can only be used for humanitarian reasons. Details of the agreement were not provided by the British government.
The British government has not acknowledged a connection between the dual nationals' debt and their detention, but Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband has made it clear that Iran was holding his wife hostage in order to make Britain pay.
For more than 40 years, the British-Iranian relationship has been plagued by debt.
The U.K. cancelled an agreement with Iran's Shah to sell more than 1,500 tanks to the country. The shah's government had already paid in advance so the Iranian government demanded payment for the tanks never delivered. Since then, the two countries have been negotiating over the debt.
Since Tuesday's announcement by the member of parliament who represents Zaghari Ratcliffe's London neighborhood, that Iranian authorities had returned her passport, there was hope for a deal.
Answering questions regarding the negotiations before the announcement, Truss stated that the U.K. considered the debt legitimate and that the government was looking for ways of paying it in accordance with international sanctions.
Truss said Sky News that she could not comment on whether Britain would pay for medical equipment.
In April 2016, Zaghari Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran's airport. She was returning to Britain from Iran with her family. Although she was employed by Thomson Reuters Foundation (the charitable arm of the news agency), she was away on vacation at the time of her arrest.
After being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran's government, Zaghari-Ratcliffe received a sentence of five years imprisonment. She was supported by rights groups and her supporters, but she denies the charges. For the past two years, she had been living under house arrest in Tehran at her parents' residence.
Johnson, who was 2017 foreign minister, obstructed efforts to free Zaghari Ratcliffe by incorrectly stating that she was training journalists at the time she was detained. Although he later apologized, Iranian media pointed out his comments.
Antonio Zappulla was the CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation and said that his organization was "overjoyed” to see Zaghari-Ratcliffe freed.
Zappulla released a statement saying that no one could imagine the pain Nazanin endured over the past six years. She was denied her freedoms, separated with her husband and child, and she battled significant illness. She was then placed in isolation. Nazanin, an innocent victim in an international dispute has been used as a political pawn. Her treatment was utterly inhumane."
Rights groups claim Iran is using dual-nationals to get influence or money in negotiations with the West. Iran denies this accusation. Detainees such as Zaghari Ratcliffe cannot receive consular assistance from Iran because Iran doesn't recognize dual citizenship.
An U.N. panel has criticised what it calls "an emerging pattern" that involves the "arbitrary deprivation or liberty of dual nationals in Iran.
In August 2017, Ashoori was taken into custody in Tehran. Ashoori was sentenced to 12 year imprisonment for his alleged connections to Israel's Mossad intelligence Agency, something that his family and supporters long denied.
Tahbaz was a British-American conservationist from Iranian descent who was captured in a dragnet that targeted environmental activists in Iran. The board member of the Persian Heritage Wildlife Association was the 66-year old. This is a prominent conservation group in Iran.
Iran convicted Tahbaz and seven other environmentalists, including his co-accused, of spying for America. He was sentenced for 10 years and sent to Evin Prison.
France: The family of a French tourist held in Iran since May 2020 was happy to see their loved one released. They urged French authorities not to delay the British's success.
Benjamin Briere was taken photos in a desert area, where photography is not allowed. He also asked questions via social media about the mandatory Islamic headscarf Iran requires for women. According to his lawyer, he was sentenced for trumped up espionage charges and propaganda. In December, he began a hunger strike.
Wednesday's release is coming as negotiators in Vienna claim they are close to finalizing a roadmap for Iran and the U.S. to join Tehran's 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers. In 2018, the United States unilaterally pulled out of the agreement, causing tensions throughout the Mideast. The Islamic Republic is enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels.
These negotiations were interrupted last week by Russia's demand that Moscow be exempted from Western sanctions for its war against Ukraine. It is not clear when they will resume in Vienna.