0618 GMT September 23, 2020
South Korea’s continued insistence on freezing Iran’s oil money will hamper the development of interactions between the two countries in the future, said an MP.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Iran Daily, Abolfazl Amooei, the speaker of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, added South Korea’s move is considered a serious violation of its commitments within the framework of international law.
Seoul has frozen about $8 billion of the money it should have already paid to Tehran for purchasing oil from the country prior to US refrainment from extending the sanctions waivers for importers of Iranian crude in February 2019.
In May 2018, US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed between Iran and the P5+1 in July 2015, and reimposed Washington’s unilateral sanctions on Tehran. Mainly targeting its foreign trade, such as oil exports and banking relations, the sanctions have banned oil imports from Iran as well as money transfer to and from the country.
Ever since the reimposition of US sanctions on Iran’s banking sector and oil exports in early November 2018, Seoul has refrained from clearing its debts to Tehran on the pretext of the embargoes. This comes as South Korea continued its oil imports from Iran until April 2019.
In a meeting between Iranian and South Korean officials in November 2018, it was decided that Seoul should settle its debts to Tehran through supplying goods, an arrangement to which the East Asian country did not remain committed. Almost three years have passed since South Korea’s oil purchases from Iran and they have not yet paid the money.
“The money belongs to Iranian people and freezing it in South Korean banks is not correct on any basis,” Amooei added.
Iran has acquired these financial resources through a legitimate trade, he noted, adding the South Korean government’s move to block Tehran’s access to these resources indicates its dependence on the US in its international moves and decisions.
“We expected the South Korean government to give a correct and appropriate response to the Islamic Republic’s legal claim,” said the lawmaker.
Iranian people have so far displayed a friendly behavior toward South Koreans, the MP said, stressing that Seoul’s refrainment from honoring its commitments will distort the South Korean government’s image in Iranians’ minds.
He expressed hope that South Koreans would, as soon as possible, respond to the Iranians’ legitimate expectation and allow Tehran to have access to its frozen financial resources.
Tehran has suffered considerable damage due to the freezing of its assets by Seoul, he said, urging the South Korean government to take this issue into account.
Describing as unacceptable South Korea’s excuse of being under US pressures, for not paying Iran’s money, Amooei emphasized that, “We do not buy such excuses as we believe that no country is allowed to interfere in relations between Tehran and Seoul.”
He called on South Korea to prevent a third country’s interference in its legitimate relations with Iran, saying within the framework of international law, having access to these resources is a legal right of the Islamic Republic.
“We do not allow a third country to block our access to our financial resources.”
Commenting on the long-term strategic cooperation agreement between Iran and China, Amooei said the 25-year deal between Tehran and Beijing will be in both sides’ interests.
In January 2016, during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Iran, Tehran and Beijing signed an official joint statement, in which one of the clauses pertained to the two countries’ strong determination to expand cooperation within the framework of a 25-year comprehensive strategic cooperation plan.
Following the visit, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei stressed the need for such cooperation when receiving the Chinese president at a meeting in Tehran.
Since a year ago, the two countries have started serious negotiations to sign the agreement and have exchanged a few drafts of the final deal. On June 23, the final draft of the agreement was eventually approved in a meeting of the Iranian cabinet. The preliminary document and draft of the contract were handed over to the Chinese side during a visit by Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif to Beijing in the latter days of 2019.
Among the fields for cooperation mentioned in the contract’s draft are investments in Iranian infrastructure as well as oil, gas and petrochemical industries and culture and security.
Amooei said the deal can guarantee China’s long-term energy security and will also provide the East Asian country with greater access to a West Asian state capable of playing an important role in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by Beijing due to its geographical location.
China’s economy has grown at a fast pace over the past few years, helping the country become one of the world’s major economic and trade hubs. The Chinese government seeks to implement the BRI to further enhance its status in international trade and global economy.
Formerly known as One Belt One Road, the BRI is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in nearly 70 countries and international organizations. It is considered a centerpiece of the Chinese government’s foreign policy.
The initiative can change the world’s trade structure, helping China become the world’s main trade hub through reviving the ancient Silk Road.
“A long-term cooperation with Iran will help China continue its economic growth as Beijing is in need of closer energy and trade collaborations with Tehran to become the world’s largest economy,” said the Iranian parliamentarian.
The contract, he added, will also ensure stability in the relations between Iran and China.
“China is currently our first trade partner. The contract will help Beijing retain its status [in Tehran’s foreign trade].”
On the other hand, the deal will help reduce the impact of foreign interference in relations between the two countries, minimizing fluctuations in the level of their ties, Amooei said.
The MP expressed hope that negotiations between the two countries on signing the contract would soon produce favorable results.
He said the Parliament supports the idea and expects the Iranian and Chinese governments to press ahead with the plan at a faster pace.