A South Korean tanker detained by Iran for months amid a multi-billion dollar dispute captured by Seoul was released and set off on Friday, just hours before further talks. follow between Tehran and world powers over their torn nuclear deal.
MarineTraffic.com data shows MT Hankuk Chemi leaves Bandar Abbas early in the morning. By Friday afternoon, it was off the east coast of the United Arab Emirates, safely passing through the Strait of Hormuz.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Iran released the tanker and its captain after capturing the vessel in January. The ministry said the Hankuk Chemi ship left the Iranian port at about 6 a.m. local time after completing administrative procedures.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, later confirmed that Iran had released the ship.
State news agency IRNA quoted Khatibzadeh as saying: “At the request of the owner and the Korean government, the order to release the ship was issued by the prosecutor.
It was not yet immediately accessible to the ship owner, DM Shipping Co., Ltd. of Busan, Korea.
The Hankuk Chemi was traveling from a petrochemical facility in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates when armed Revolutionary Guard troops crashed into the ship in January and forced her son. The ship had to change direction and go to Iran.
Iran has accused MT Hankuk Chemi of polluting waters in the critical Strait of Hormuz. However, the arrest is seen by many as an attempt to pressure Seoul to release about $ 7 billion of Iranian assets tied up in South Korean banks amid heavy sanctions. America to Iran. Iran released the 20-member crew in February, but continued to detain the ship and its captain while demanding that South Korea unlock Iran’s frozen assets.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry did not acknowledge the fund dispute by announcing the ship’s release, with Khatibzadeh only stating that the captain and tanker had a record in the region.
However, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official, who was not named under the regulations, said Seoul’s readiness to deal with the issue of Iranian assets tied up in South Korea “could have a positive effect” on Iran’s decision to release the ship. .
The official said Iran had acknowledged South Korea’s efforts to resolve the dispute because it was clear that the issue was “not just about Korea’s own capabilities and efforts” and “related” to the negotiations on the return of Tehran’s founding nuclear deal.
The release of the funds involved the consent of various countries including the US, which in 2018 imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors. The official said South Korea has been in close contact with other countries about Iran’s frozen assets.
In January, the United Nations said Iran topped the list of countries owed money by the world organization with minimum bills of over $ 16 million. If not paid, Iran may lose the right to vote under the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.
The country’s Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed South Korean Foreign Ministry official: “We are expecting significant progress in paying UN fees. “We have also exported $ 30 million worth of medical equipment since we resumed our humanitarian trade with Iran last April.”
Iran later announced that it expected South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun to visit Tehran for a two-day visit starting Sunday. Yonhap said the trip would be the first visit by a South Korean prime minister to Iran in 44 years – before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Mr. Chung previously visited Iran in August 2017 as a speaker of the National Assembly at the time.
This development comes as Iran and world powers prepare to resume talks in Vienna on Friday to break a deadlock over US sanctions on Iran and Iran in violation of the nuclear deal. multiply. The 2015 nuclear deal, which then-President Donald Trump abandoned three years later, introduced sanctions against Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.