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(LEAD) FM stresses Seoul's 'sincerity' in efforts to release frozen Iranian assets

All News 22:57 February 24, 2021

(ATTN: RECASTS with Iranian state news agency's report)

SEOUL, Feb. 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is making sincere efforts toward the release of frozen Iranian assets, Seoul's foreign minister said Wednesday, as Tehran warned of initiating proceedings with international justice if Seoul does not pay Iran's debt.

Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong made the comments in a phone conversation with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The talks came a day after Tehran claimed that it had reached an agreement with Seoul on the transfer and use of US$7 billion of its funds frozen in South Korean banks due to U.S. sanctions.

This photo, provided by the foreign ministry on Feb. 12, 2021, shows South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

South Korea later said that the two sides agreed in principle to the proposals it has made to Tehran on how to use the assets, but made it clear that any release of the money will take place after consultations with Washington.

"With regard to Minister Zarif's request for an early resolution in relation to the issue of the frozen won-based funds, Minister Chung explained that the government has been sincerely making utmost efforts," the ministry said in a release.

During the talks, Chung also urged Iran to swiftly free the South Korean oil tanker and crew members seized by Tehran in its seas since early January over alleged sea pollution.

Despite denials from Seoul and Tehran, speculation has mounted that the ship seizure is related to Iran's discontent over the frozen funds.

In the talks, Chung expressed Seoul's support for dialogue efforts between Iran and the United States toward restoring the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal aimed at limiting Tehran's nuclear activities, the ministry added.

In Tehran, Central Bank Gov. Abdolnasser Hemmati claimed that South Korea is to start paying $1 billion of its arrears to Iran from the total amount of $7 billion, according to state news agency IRNA.

"If South Korea does not pay Iran's debt, Iran will initiate proceedings with international justice," IRNA said, citing Hemmati.

elly@yna.co.kr
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