South Korea agrees to partial release of Iranian funds blocked under sanctions

South Korea agrees to partial release of Iranian funds blocked under sanctions
Iran says it has 'close to $10 billion' held in South Korean banks.
2 min read
22 February, 2021
Iran seized a South Korean tanker in early January [Getty]
South Korea has agreed to release millions of dollars in Iranian funds trapped in its banks for years due to US sanctions, Al Jazeera has reported.

Ambassador Ryu Jeong-hyun announced Seoul would release "a part" of the funds, the Central Bank of Iran said in a statement without specifying the exact figure.

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said on Sunday that the country's funds in South Korean banks totaled "close to $10 billion". Iranian officials have previously stated the figure as $7 billion.

Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati welcomed the move but slammed past "lack of cooperation by South Korean banks".

Tehran intends to go forward with legal efforts to obtain damages incurred from the blockage, he said.

"The Korean side must work hard so this negative precedent goes away," Hemmati added.

The agreement follows the seizure of a South Korean vessel off the coast of Iran last month.

Tehran has insisted the seizure had no political motive and was carried out due to "environmental pollution".

Iran has since released the ship's crew.

The release of the funds also comes as the Islamic Republic awaits the potential lifting of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.

Both Washington and Tehran have expressed an interest in returning to the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal but neither is willing to make the first move.

The Biden administration removed restrictions on the movement of Iranian diplomats in New York last week.

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