Rouhani urges South Korea to release Iranian assets
“Iran’s use of its financial reserves in South Korean banks is a clear and obvious right,” Rouhani said while receiving the credentials of new South Korean Ambassador to Tehran Yun Kanghyeon, according to Press TV.
Before the Trump administration’s illegal sanctions on Iran, South Korea was one of the main buyers of the Iranian oil and gas. Iran was also one of the main destinations of the Korean products. South Korea not only froze the Iranian oil assets, it also lost is big share of the Iranian market.
The move by South Korea have prompted some political and economic figures in Iran to propose a ban on the return of the Korean companies to Iran once the illegal sanctions are lifted. They say that Korea have left Iran alone in difficult days.
Rouhani said mutual ties have deteriorated due to the “illegal” and “oppressive” sanctions, emphasizing that such issues should be resolved as soon as possible.
Despite promises made by South Korea, the banking and financial problems between the two countries still remain unsolved, Rouhani said.
“We still have problems in purchases of medical and pharmaceutical equipment and facilities and even the COVID-19 vaccine with our own financial reserves in Seoul banks,” Rouhani lamented.
The president said financial problems between Iran and South Korea have negatively affected the Iranian people’s trust in Seoul.
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 U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Some reports have put the assets frozen in Korea at about 7 billion dollars.
Iran did not expect Seoul to easily submit to the U.S. sanctions on Iran. This happened despite the fact that Korean-made cars, smart phones, and home appliances had mostly replaced the Japanese in Iran.
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in January that the measure taken by South Korean banks to freeze Iran’s assets for fear of U.S. sanctions constitute the main factor that prevents expansion of relations between the two countries, calling on Seoul to take swift and necessary actions to settle the issue.
In the Tuesday meeting, the South Korean ambassador, for his part, said Seoul was well aware of Iran’s frustration, claiming that bilateral ties have been affected by conditions that are out of the Seoul government’s control.
He, however, pledged utmost efforts toward improving relations.
Although South Korea is waiting for good results at the end of the Vienna talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, it will not waste time and is preparing the ground for reactivating a development of ties with Iran, Yun said.
According to AFP, the United States said on July 14 that it was allowing Iran to use frozen funds to settle debts in South Korea and Japan, as talks drag on over reviving the nuclear deal.
The United States maintains sweeping sanctions on the clerical regime, meaning that companies that deal with many bank accounts in Iran can face legal penalties in the world's largest economy.
The State Department said that it has been letting Japanese and South Korean companies receive payments from U.S.-targeted Iranian accounts to pay for exports shipped before former president Donald Trump's administration started enforcing its toughest sanctions in 2019.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had signed an earlier waiver and has extended it for 90 days as "these repayment transactions can sometimes be time-consuming," a State Department spokesperson said.
"To be clear: The waiver does not allow for the transfer of any funds to Iran."
Trump had vowed to bring Iran to its knees through “maximum pressure” after he walked out of the nuclear agreement – JCPOA- negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama under which Iran drastically scaled back nuclear work in return for termination of economic and financial sanctions.
Source: Tehran Times