Iran claims that US sanctions are insufficient to justify Seoul’s asset freeze.
‘Proceeding in the right direction,’ says Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Mousavi.
Iran said on Thursday that South Korea is “obliged” to release its frozen assets and that US sanctions cannot justify debt default.
According to state-run media citing the Foreign Ministry in Tehran, Ali Bagheri, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, made the remarks during a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Choi Jong-kun on the sidelines of the ongoing nuclear deal talks in Vienna on Thursday.
Bagheri, who is leading Iran’s 40-member delegation to the Vienna talks, told a senior South Korean diplomat that the blocked funds must be released “regardless of the outcome” of the ongoing nuclear talks.
In recent years, the two countries’ relations have deteriorated, with Tehran accusing Seoul of freezing more than (dollar)7 billion in foreign exchange reserves under US pressure.
According to a statement released by the South Korean Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, a delegation led by Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choi Jong-Kun will travel to Vienna to “explore ways to resolve the issue of frozen Iranian assets in Korea.”
Choi later declared in a tweet that his government will provide “diplomatic assistance as a custodian of the frozen funds, a defender of the NPT (nuclear non-proliferation treaty), and the nation seeking complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” during the Vienna talks.
In bilateral ties, there’s a ‘dark spot.’
Bagheri said Seoul’s “illegal and unjustifiable refusal” to repay its debt to Iran will be a “dark point in the history of relations” between the two countries during his meeting with Choi at the Iranian Embassy in Vienna.
Bagheri used “tough language” in talks with his South Korean counterpart, according to sources in Vienna, and demanded that Iran’s assets be returned “as soon as possible.”
The meeting was “not directly related” to ongoing negotiations between Iran and the P4(plus)1 (Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany) aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal and de-escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington, according to Iranian officials.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian brought up the issue with his South Korean counterpart Choun Yunyong two months ago, criticizing Seoul for not unfreezing the country’s assets.
In turn, South Korea’s top diplomat expressed concern about Iran’s ban on Korean home appliances imports and called for.
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