Iranian Foreign Ministry says a South Korean delegation, which has arrived in Tehran, is to negotiate Iran’s frozen financial resources, rejecting an earlier report that the visit is related to the seizure of South Korea’s tanker by Iran.
“The delegation that has arrived in our country is part of a delegation [that is to be led] by the South Korean deputy foreign minister, which is set to travel to Tehran on Sunday,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Thursday.
Khatibzadeh explained that the trip is not related to the South Korean tanker that was seized on Monday in the Persian Gulf by Iranian naval forces for repeated violations of maritime environmental law.
“The delegation’s trip was agreed upon before the seizure of the violating [South] Korean tanker, and its main agenda is to discuss access to Iran’s financial resources in [South] Korea,” he added.
On Tuesday, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam said a delegation, led by Director-General for African and Middle Eastern Affairs Koh Kyung-sok, would soon leave for Tehran to resolve the issue of the seizure of MT Hankuk Chemi tanker through negotiations.
The upcoming visit comes as Iranian authorities have been pressing South Korea to release between $6.5 billion and $9 billion dollars in funds that had been frozen since 2018 when the United States imposed its unilateral sanctions on Iran.
The release of the funds would enable Tehran to purchase medicine and medical equipment needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Iran has repeatedly called on Seoul to abandon its “illegal” policies and release the Iranian assets that it has frozen due to the US sanctions so that Tehran can step up its fight against COVID-19.
“We expect South Korea to review its illegal approaches and also speed up the implementation of other negotiated solutions in addition to facilitating the trade in humanitarian items,” Government spokesman Ali Rabiei said in remarks on July 28, after he himself tested positive for COVID-19.
This would enable the Iranian nation “to gain access to its financial resources as soon as possible and overcome its economic and health problems emanating from the coronavirus spread,” he added.