Iran tells South Korea not to politicise seized vessel, demands release of funds
- Iran said on Sunday that South Korea should avoid politicising the seizure of its vessel by Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Gulf while pressing Seoul to release $7 billion in funds frozen amid U.S. sanctions.
- South Korea’s vice foreign minister, Choi Jong-kun, arrived in Tehran on Sunday to discuss the release of the South Korean-flagged MT Hankuk Chemi.
- Iran has denied allegations that the seizure of the tanker and its 20-member crew amounted to hostage taking, and said it was Seoul that was holding Iran’s funds “hostage”.
- Iran’s deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told South Korea’s Choi that Seoul “should refrain from politicising the issue and fruitless propaganda and allow the legal proceedings to proceed”.
- However, the ship’s Busan-based operator, Taikun Shipping Co. Ltd., told Reuters there was nothing to indicate before the seizure of the vessel that Iranian authorities were probing possible violations of environmental rules.
- The semi-official Fars news agency quoted Araqchi as saying,”“For about two and a half years, South Korean banks have frozen Iran’s funds,this is more because of Seoul’s lack of political will (to resolve the issue) than the U.S. sanctions”.
- The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018 after President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers.
- Under that deal, Iran had agreed to curb its nuclear work in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
- Iran has retaliated by bypassing the restrictions of the deal step by step. In a move that could complicate efforts by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the deal.
- Tehran said on Monday it had resumed 20% uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow nuclear facility.
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