Iran and South Korea, following several weeks of deep discussions, have settled into an agreement on Monday to release Iranian assets held in Korean banks.
The discussion on the process and mode of transferring partial frozen Iranian assets has happened in Tehran between Abdolnasser Hemmat, Governor of Iran’s Central Bank, and South Korean Ambassador Ryu Jeong-Hyun.
The two parties have approved an initial arrangement of having the frozen assets transferred to certain destinations identified by Tehran, the Central Bank said in an official statement.
Seoul is prepared to work with Tehran, the South Korean envoy assured, in terms of the unfreezing and transfer of Iranian funds from South Korea, the statement furthered.
However, Iran would still ask Seoul for “damages” because of Korea banks’ “non-cooperation” in unfreezing the assets, Hemmati said.
“Although Iran welcomes the change in the approach of countries and increase in cooperation, the legal pursuits of this bank (CBI) to claim damages due to non-cooperation of Korean banks in recent years will remain strong,” the Governor stated.
In addition, Hemmati said the banks in Korea have also been deterred from working closely with Tehran regarding the concern on the drive of the U.S. pressing Iran.
Based on the reports of South Korean media, around $9.2 billion worth of Iranian assets were held in South Korea.
The ties between Tehran and Seoul did not turn out good over the years due to the issue of frozen assets that paved a way through a soured diplomatic conflict.
Tensions between the two countries intensified last month after Iran has captured a South Korean-flagged oil tanker navigating through the Persian Gulf because of its alleged breach on environmental laws.
A high-level delegates were deployed to Iran shortly after the incident to negotiate on the release of the South Korean nationals and other crew aboard the vessel.
Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister, said that his country’s frozen assets in South Korea are the “biggest obstacle” to the bilateral relations between the two countries.
Earlier this February, sailors of the vessel were released from capture, heightening talks on unfreezing the Iranian funds. Iran, however, still kept the vessel under its custody.
The agreement to partially release the Iranian fund followed a frantic push to revive discussions between Tehran and Washington regarding the nuclear program of Iran.
Reportedly, Iran intends to use portions of the funds in South Korea to import COVID-19 vaccines there.