The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic ties since 1980, and relations have sharply worsened since Trump withdrew from an international accord giving Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The arch-enemies came to the brink of military confrontation in June this year when Iran downed a US drone and Trump ordered retaliatory strikes before cancelling them at the last minute.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was ‘pleased that Tehran has been constructive in this matter’.
A senior US official noted that Trump ‘remains committed to talks with Iran without preconditions’ - about Tehran’s nuclear programme, its ‘malign activities’ in the Middle East, and the deadly mass protests that have gripped the country.
While Iran has so far rebuffed US offers of talks, the official said, “We’re hopeful that the release of Wang is a sign that the Iranians may be willing to come to the table to discuss all these issues.”
The official also voiced hope that Wang’s release signals ‘the Iranians are realising that the practice of hostage-taking diplomacy really should come to an end’.
A doctoral candidate at Princeton, Wang was conducting research for his dissertation on late 19th- and early 20th-century Eurasian history when he was imprisoned in August 2016. He was serving ten years on espionage charges.
‘He was not a spy, he was not involved in espionage and, and was wrongfully detained from the start,” the US official said.
A statement on the Iranian judiciary’s Mizan Online website said Wang had been ‘freed on Islamic clemency’.