0615 GMT January 16, 2021
A South Korean delegation, led by First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun, wrapped up its three-day visit to Tehran on Tuesday to discuss issues related to Iran’s frozen assets and a South Korean-flagged tanker recently seized by the naval force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
“Through multi-faceted consultations with leading Iranian officials, South Korea and Iran will work together to craft swift, constructive solutions to the pending issues based on the long-standing friendship between the two countries,” the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a press release, Yonhap News Agency reported.
Regarding the frozen assets, Choi called for Tehran’s cooperation in finding an adequate way to use the assets by acknowledging the “reality” that the financial systems of South Korea and the United States are closely linked and that consulting on the matter with Washington is inevitable, the ministry said.
During the visit, Choi held a series of meetings with top Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Kamal Kharrazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations.
Iran’s foreign minister told the South Korean official on Monday the measure taken by South Korean banks to freeze the Islamic Republic’s assets for fear of US sanctions constitute the main factor that prevents further expansion of relations between the two countries, calling on Seoul to take swift and necessary actions to settle the issue, according to Press TV.
“Given the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus, gaining access to these resources is currently the main priority in the two countries’ relations,” the top Iranian diplomat added.
Zarif noted that the “illegal move” by South Korean banks has elicited negative sentiments among the Iranian people and has seriously tarnished the image of this country, and this is why Iranian lawmakers have reiterated their legal right to address this issue, so that it could be resolved as soon as possible, Zarif said.
The South Korean official, for his part, said his country is determined to solve the issue and would make its utmost efforts to prepare the ground for Iran’s access to its assets.
Iranian authorities have said on several occasions that they expect South Korea to do more on the release of nearly $8.5 billion blocked illegally in two South Korean banks under the pretext of US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Pointing to the seizure of a South Korean tanker by Iranian forces, Zarif said the ship was impounded for polluting the Persian Gulf waters. “This is a merely technical issue, which is under investigation within the framework of legal and judicial regulations” and, therefore, it is not possible for the Iranian government to interfere in the judicial proceedings involving the tanker, he said.
The IRGC Navy said in a statement on January 4 that the Hankuk Chemi tanker had departed from the Petroleum Chemical Quay in Saudi Arabia’s Jubail port before being impounded for polluting the Persian Gulf waters with chemicals.
The statement added that the ship, which carried 7,200 tons of ethanol, is now being held at Iran’s southern Bandar Abbas port city.