0229 GMT November 28, 2020
Money from Iran’s exports of gas and electricity has accumulated and been trapped in a bank account in Iraq because of US sanctions, Press TV reported.
Hemmati secured a trade agreement with officials in Baghdad on Monday to use payments from energy exports to buy essential goods from Iraq.
“The recent trip to Iraq was a success and we hope to be able to use our assets in Iraq, which are more than five billion dollars,” he told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday.
“Some other countries have also responded positively to the use of foreign exchange earnings. In this regard, traders and importers will gradually realize in which areas we have access to our resources,” Hemmati added.
Another country holding a sizable amount of Iranian funds is South Korea.
Iranian authorities have been pressing Seoul to release between $6.5 billion and $9 billion dollars frozen since 2018 when the United States imposed its unilateral sanctions on Iran.
In June, President Hassan Rouhani instructed Hemmati to follow up the matter through legal channels and international forums.
South Korea was the biggest client of Iranian gas condensate with 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) on top of 100,000 bpd of crude oil, but the country stopped the imports even before US sanctions on Iran’s oil industry went into effect in November 2018.
An Iranian newspaper has said Seoul was stonewalling the way for Iran to collect the debt.
“According to several informed sources familiar with negotiations between Iran and South Korea, Iran has announced that in order to facilitate the work, it intends to use the financial resources available in South Korea to buy agricultural items as well as medicine – goods which the US Treasury has cleared for sale,” the Tehran-based Etemad daily said in May.
However, “South Korea has tied Iran’s hands in choosing how to collect the debt for at least three years, most recently claiming that Iran can use the funds only to buy Korean-made goods for fighting the coronavirus,” the paper added, citing an informed source.
Iraq relies on Iran for natural gas that generates as much as 45 percent of its electricity. Iran transmits another 1,200 megawatts directly, making itself an indispensable energy source for its Arab neighbor, but the United States is trying to pry Baghdad away from Tehran’s orbit.
The US has been enlisting its companies and allies such as Saudi Arabia to replace Iran as Iraq’s source of energy.
Officials in Baghdad have said there is no easy substitute to imports from Iran because it will take years to adequately build up Iraq’s energy infrastructure.
They have said American demand acknowledges neither Iraq’s energy needs nor the complex relations between Baghdad and Tehran.
In addition to natural gas and electricity, Iraq imports a wide range of goods from Iran including food, agricultural products, home appliances, and air conditioners.