(Reuters) – A move by South Korea towards releasing $7 billion in frozen Iranian funds may help spur Iran’s judiciary to resolve the seizure of a Korean ship being held for alleged environmental pollution, a senior Iranian lawmaker said on Friday.
Earlier this month South Korea’s vice foreign minister held talks in Tehran on the release of the South Korean-flagged MT Hankuk Chemi, which was seized on Jan. 4 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
“Although the Korean ship’s seizure was only due to environmental pollution…, Korean action in expediting the return of Iran’s blocked funds may affect the judiciary’s decision in resolving the ship’s seizure,” lawmaker Mojtaba Zolnour was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.
Zolnour, chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee, spoke in a virtual meeting with the head of South Korean parliament’s foreign affairs and unification committee, IRNA said.
Iran has denied allegations that the seizure of the tanker and its 20-member crew amounted to hostage-taking, and said it was Seoul that was holding the Iranian funds “hostage”.
The freezing of some $7 billion of Iranian funds is linked to U.S. sanctions which Washington reimposed on Tehran in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from Iran 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Mark Heinrich)