South Korean Delegation in Vienna for Talks on Iran’s Frozen Assets

South Korean Delegation in Vienna for Talks on Iran’s Frozen Assets

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – South Korea has sent a delegation to Vienna for talks with Iran and other countries over how to resolve the issue of Iran’s frozen assets held in the East Asian country, its foreign ministry said.

Iran and the remaining signatories of a 2015 nuclear deal on Monday resumed discussions to remove sanctions on the Islamic Republic and bring the US back to compliance with the agreement.

The South Korean foreign ministry said its vice foreign minister Choi Jong-kun had arrived in Vienna with a delegation to "explore ways to resolve the issue of frozen Iranian assets in Korea" through consultations on the sidelines with Iran and in coordination with the US, France, Germany and Britain.

The US is not part of the Vienna talks because it has pulled out of the agreement, but it has sent a representative to the Austrian capital to be kept abreast of the negotiations by its European allies.

The parties are discussing a common text which has incorporated Iran's demands regarding the removal of sanctions and its verification as well as US guarantees not to abandon its obligations again.

The former US administration under president Donald Trump all but wrecked the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after he abandoned it and restored the sanctions which the nuclear agreement had removed besides imposing new bans under different labels.

South Korea and other US allies opted to comply with the violation as they stopped trade with the Islamic Republic and refused to pay their debts, mostly oil money, to Iran.

Iran has repeatedly demanded the release of its frozen assets in several countries, including some $10 billion in South Korea, but Seoul has looked at Washington for a permit to repay its debt.

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 caused a diplomatic spat.

South Korea was the biggest client of Iranian gas condensate with 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) on top of 100,000 bpd of crude oil, but the country stopped the imports even before the illegal US sanctions imposed on Iran’s oil industry in November 2018.

Gas condensate is an ultra light oil which has a wide range of utilization in the petrochemical industry.

Last month, South Korea’s ambassador to Iran said his country has suffered badly from more than three years of US sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Yun Kang-hyeon said South Korea's petrochemical sector had been badly affected by the sanctions because of its heavy reliance on Iranian oil supplies.

South Korea and Japan were the major customers of Iran's South Pars condensate, favoring the grade for its rich naphtha yield as well as its relative cheapness to other condensate grades.

"We hope that problems can be solved soon so that we can resume importing our oil needs from Iran and this will be good for everyone," said the ambassador.

Before the sanctions, Korean companies also had a ubiquitous presence in Iran which was a key market for Samsung and LG products in the Middle East, including smartphones and home appliances such as washing machines, TV sets, air conditioners and telecommunications equipment.

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