Iran Agrees to Free South Korean Ship’s Crew
SEOUL, South Korea – Iran has agreed to free the 19-member crew of a seized South Korea-flagged ship, the two countries said on Tuesday, the first to avoid the problem after the Iranians imposed the problem Significant signs appeared. Ship one month ago.
Irani’s move could also be aimed at sending an indirect signal to the Biden administration, which has indicated that former President Donald J. He wants to avoid a further deterioration in relations with Iran after a rapid deterioration under Trump.
In exchange for the crew’s release, the South Korean government said it promised swift action to address Iran’s complaints about Iran’s inability to raise funds to $ 7 billion, as opposed to by Mr. Korean Trump South Korean banks were frozen due to US sanctions. .
It was not immediately clear from the announcement when the crew members would be released. Iran said the ship and its captain would remain in its custody, pending an investigation into what the Iranians reported as a violation of the maritime pollution law, the root cause they gave the vessel to seize.
Laden, Hankook Chemie, with 7,200 tons of chemicals Was taken into custody By the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps during a patrol in the Persian Gulf on 4 January. South Korea strongly opposed the ceasefire, and the ship’s owner called Iran’s allegations absurd.
It soon became clear that after abandoning the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the major world powers, Iran, at least in part, to pressure South Korea, a strong US ally, over sanctions given by Mr. Trump. I had taken custody of the ship. Those sanctions included blocking Iran’s access to billions of dollars in Iranian oil revenues deposited in foreign banks.
Iran began disobeying its commitments under the nuclear deal in response to Mr. Trump’s actions, and has threatened further steps that include preventing international nuclear inspectors from visiting nuclear sites.
While President Biden has said he wants to resume the nuclear deal if Iran begins compliance, Iran has said that the United States should first waive sanctions. Neither party has publicly shown an immediate desire to find a diplomatic solution.
But Iran’s agreement to free the ship’s crew of South Korea, described as a humanitarian gesture to Saeed Khatibzade, a foreign ministry spokesman, aimed to portray some measure of flexibility on sanctions-related issues Had to do.
“This may be a sign to resume discussions or at least to show a willingness to take the tensions down a notch, and perhaps the door for South Korea to seize Iranian property To open, ”said Farhad Alvi, a partner at the Akriva Law Group, a Washington firm that specializes in sanctions law.
“Likewise, I wouldn’t be surprised if President Biden suspends some less sensitive or perhaps more politically Trump-era sanctions in the coming weeks or months – more symbolic than enough,” Mr. Alavi said.
The Biden administration had no immediate comment on this news about South Korean crew members.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the decision to free the crew members came on Tuesday during a telephone conversation between Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Seyyid Abbas Arghchi and his South Korean counterpart, Choi Jong-kun.
The statement said the crew consisted of four South Koreans, and the other members are Burmese, Vietnamese and Indonesian.
Mr. Choi welcomed the Iranian decision and urged the Iranian government to release the captain and the ship as well.
During his telephone conversation with Mr. Arghi, Mr. Choi promised “swift” action, which would help Iran address complaints of more than $ 7 billion in funding.
The ministry said Mr. Choi told Mr. Arghi that South Korea would consult with US officials in Washington.
Cho Sang-hun reported from Seoul and Fernaz Fasihi reported from New York. Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from Ishaan, Mass.