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Iran waiting to see if new Seoul government is serious about funds issue: Spokesman

Iran says it is waiting to see if new South Korea government will take concrete action on blocked funds.

Iran will give time to a new government in South Korea to act and repatriate billions of dollars worth of Iranian funds that have remained blocked in the country allegedly because of American sanctions on Iran, says a top official in Tehran.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday that Iran still awaits a concrete action from South Korea on paying back more than $7 billion worth of debt it owes Iran for imports of crude that took place before the United States imposed sanctions on Tehran in 2018.

Khatibzadeh said Iran expects Seoul to repatriate funds owed to Iran just like Iraq did last week when it paid back some $1.7 billion of its energy arrears to Tehran.  

“We give opportunity to South Korea’s new government to practically show what concrete action it will take like our friends in the region do to pay back its debt to Iran,” he said during a weekly press briefing.

The official said, however, that the current government in Seoul, which came to office last month, has promised to adopt a different approach in dealing with the blocked funds compared to a previous administration which he branded as “untrustworthy”.

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin said last week during a press briefing in Washington that Seoul will seek to speak to both Iran and the US about the blocked funds.

South Korea hoped a breakthrough in international efforts to revive Iran’s nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, would lead to a removal of sanctions on Iran and allow Seoul to repatriate the funds.

Those efforts have stalled for several months over what Iran describes as lack of decisiveness on the side of Washington which is a party to talks to revive the JCPOA.

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