Governor of the Central Bank of Iran called on South Korean banks to release Iran’s oil money frozen under US pressure, warning that the Islamic Republic reserves the right to take legal action under international law.
“It is appalling to see that (South) Korean banks have conveniently neglected their obligations, common international financial agreements, and decided to play politics and follow illegal and unilateral US sanctions,” Abdolnaser Hemmati told Bloomberg on Wednesday.
Iran could launch legal action to gain access to the funds, he said, without naming the lenders in question.
Iran announced earlier this month that it had received medicines valued at $500,000 from South Korea after two years of negotiations.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry says South Korea is about $7 billion in arrears for oil exported before the Trump administration last year reimposed penalties on Iran’s crude sales.
According to the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, the drugs shipped were for the treatment of genetic diseases. This month, South Korea plans to ship COVID-19 test kits worth $2 million, it said.
“We have been consulting with the US, Iran and the banks holding the frozen funds, seeking to make progress on this issue,” said Koh Kyung-sok, a Foreign Ministry official. “So far, we’ve been able to utilize some of the funds to expand humanitarian trade with Iran, and will continue to seek ways to increase such exchanges,” he said by phone.
Returning to South Korea, he said the two countries have been working on a special trade vehicle, similar to that established with the European Union, which would allow Iran to complete humanitarian transactions using the money locked in Korean banks.
The US, which abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal two years ago, has sought to “stonewall” the plan, according to Hemmati.
“Should Korean banks not adhere to their international agreements with us, we reserve our rights to take legal actions under international laws,” the top Iranian banker said.