Iran's UN dues paid by Korea using frozen assets
Iran's delinquent UN dues have been paid by Korea using frozen assets, the Ministry of Economy and Finance said on Sunday.
With the arrears settled, Iran will regain its UN voting rights, which have been suspended.
"We completed the payment of $18 million of Iran's UN contributions on Jan. 21 using Iran's assets in Korea, after closely cooperating with the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and the United Nations Secretariat," the ministry said.
The payment is the second since a Korean-flagged boat was seized by Iran, and some United States lawmakers have argued that payments to the country might constitute ransom, an accusation denied by Tehran.
Iran delivered an urgent request to Korea on Jan. 13 after a letter from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated that eight nations including Iran will be losing their voting rights over unpaid dues.
A member nation loses voting rights when unpaid dues exceed the total amount that the country has paid for the previous two years, according to UN rules.
Iran is expected to regain its voting rights immediately with the $18 million payment, Korea's Finance Ministry said.
An estimated $7 billion of Iranian assets are frozen at two Korean banks, the Industrial Bank of Korea and Woori Bank.
In June, the Korean government paid $16 million on behalf of Iran to cover its UN dues. It was the minimum amount Iran needed to regain voting rights it had lost in January 2021.
The two countries reached an agreement on Feb. 22, 2021, to transfer the assets in a deal brokered during a meeting attended by Central Bank of Iran Gov. Abdolnaser Hemmati and Korean Ambassador to Iran Ryu Jeong-hyun.
In January 2021, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the MT Hankuk Chemi, a Korean-flagged oil tanker, in the Persian Gulf, citing chemical and environmental pollution issues.
Iran blames U.S. sanctions for preventing it from accessing billions of dollars held in foreign banks since 2018 and settling its accounts at the UN.
"Illegal U.S. sanctions have not just deprived our people of medicine; they have also prevented Iran from paying our dues in arrears to the UN," Iran's UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi tweeted in June.
Along with the UN payment, the U.S. in March also gave special approval for Iran to use its frozen funds in Korea to pay 40 Korean companies $70 million they were owned for exports to Iran.
The U.S. State Department said earlier this month that its sanctions will remain in place until Iran returns to the 2015 nuclear deal.
In May 2018, the Donald Trump administration withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Jcpoa), signed in July 2015 by Iran, Britain, France, China, Russia, Germany and the United States, under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear weapons program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
The countries are currently holding an eighth round of negotiations with Iran in Vienna to discuss its return to the Jcpoa deal.
BY KO SUK-HYUN, YOON SO-YEON [email@example.com]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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