South Korea must take practical, immediate action to unfreeze Iran assets: Parliament speaker
Iran Press TV
Monday, 12 April 2021 1:18 PM
Iran's Parliament speaker says South Korea must take practical and immediate measures to solve the existing problem related to Tehran's frozen assets in that country and release the Islamic Republic's blocked money.
Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf made the remarks in a Monday meeting with the visiting South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-Kyun, noting that South Korea has failed to meet the expectations of the Iranian nation, and even that of those businessmen who already had good business ties with Seoul.
"Unfortunately, South Korea has lost its position in Iran's foreign trade and the two countries' economic and political relations, which once stood at the highest level, have declined," Iran's Parliament speaker said.
He strongly criticized South Korean banks' move to block Iran's access to its own foreign exchange resources, saying, "We expect South Korea's prime minister to come up with immediate and practical solutions to settle the problem of Iran's foreign exchange resources and [help] release the Islamic Republic's frozen money."
Iran is struggling to return the funds frozen by South Korean banks amid a shortage of hard currency in the country which has been contending with the coronavirus pandemic over the past year.
Several billions of dollars of Iran's money, mostly from oil and gas exports, are held abroad and are difficult to access because of tightening US sanctions in recent years.
About $2.7 billion deposited by the Seoul branch of Iran's Bank Mellat is held by the Bank of Korea, while more than $7 billion worth of Iranian oil money is stuck at the Industrial Bank of Korea and Woori Bank, according to Yonhap news agency. South Korea's refusal to free them has turned to a diplomatic spat.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the top Iranian parliamentarian emphasized that no obstacle can hinder good cooperation between Tehran and Seoul in different fields, particularly in humanitarian affairs, the fight against coronavirus and the provision of basic commodities, expressing hope that the two countries would reach the highest level of mutual relations.
He also hoped that Chung's visit to Iran would usher in a new era of enhanced bilateral cooperation in political, economic and cultural sectors concurrent with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The South Korean prime minister, for his part, lauded good historical relations between Tehran and Seoul, which he said were owing to exchange of visits between the two sides' officials.
Chung, however, regretted that mutual relations had strained since 2018, but vowed to make efforts to improve ties.
He noted that a number of South Korean political and economic officials are accompanying him in the Tehran trip to find ways to boost mutual relations, adding that his country would make its utmost efforts to solve the existing problems given the special position of Iran in South Korea's foreign relations.
The South Korean prime minister arrived in Tehran on Sunday for talks with senior Iranian officials on bilateral issues, particularly the release of the frozen funds.
Addressing a joint press conference with Chung on Sunday, Iran's First Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri said South Korea must take action to unfreeze Iran's foreign exchange assets as soon as possible, noting that freezing Iran's money has badly tarnished the image of South Korean banks among Iranians.
"Unfortunately, during the past three years, South Korea has followed suit with illegal US sanctions against Iran, which lack any international legitimacy, as a result of which, relations between the two countries have become stagnant," Jahangiri said.
South Korea must release Iran's resources as soon as possible: Larijani
In another development on Monday, Ali Larijani, an advisor to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, said Iran's foreign exchange resources were entrusted to the South Korean banks, urging the country's government to release them as soon as possible to prevent any adverse impact on mutual relations.
Larijani made the remarks in a meeting with Chung, stressing the importance of bolstering bilateral relations in various fields.
The South Korean prime minister, for his part, pledged to find a way to facilitate unblocking of Iran's foreign assets as soon as possible.
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