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S. Korea, Iran set for working-level talks over frozen assets: source

All News 07:00 January 29, 2022

SEOUL, Jan. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and Iran plan to hold working-level consultations next month in Seoul to discuss ways to untangle yearslong disputes over Tehran's assets frozen here under U.S. sanctions, an informed source said Saturday.

Bilateral relations remain frayed over US$7 billion in Iranian funds locked in two Korean banks under U.S. sanctions, which were reimposed after former President Donald Trump in 2018 withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal.

The thorny issue has drawn renewed attention, with talks to revive the 2015 accord standing at a critical phase, as Iranian officials demand sanctions relief for an agreement.

Seoul officials say the proposed working groups are expected to go over details of a potential money transfer once sanctions are lifted and also discuss other aspects in the event of a no deal.

"The working groups are expected to mainly discuss details of the payment method of the Iranian assets if the U.S. grants sanctions relief," the source told Yonhap News on the condition of anonymity. "They could talk further on the possibility of resuming oil imports from Iran once sanctions are lifted."

Iran, which sits on the world's fourth-largest oil reserves, had been a key oil supplier to resource-poor South Korea and in turn imported industrial equipment, household appliances and vehicle parts from Seoul.

South Korea imported US$7.8 billion worth of oil from Iran in 2017, but it has stopped Iranian purchases since 2019 due to U.S. sanctions that ban the Islamic republic's oil exports, according to the data by the Korea International Trade Association.

South Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun (2nd from L) meets with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Bagheri Kani, in Vienna on Jan. 6, 2021, to discuss the issue of Tehran's frozen assets under U.S. sanctions, in this photo provided by Seoul's foreign ministry. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

ejkim@yna.co.kr
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