Iran’s foreign ministry on Monday implicitly confirmed recent claims that Tehran has accessed some of its frozen funds abroad but it refused to provide details.
Last week, the CEO of the government’s news agency IRNA and a newspaper affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard claimed Iran had freed $3.5-4 billion dollars of its frozen funds but did not say which country unblocked the assets.
Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was asked by reporters on Monday to comment on the issue. He replied: “Amid sanctions, we do not provide details to anyone. The central bank might comment if it sees fit.”
He added, “We have had many sources abroad and you know that we have been gradually freeing these assets that enter our economy. The fact that we are importing merchandise shows that these resources gradually return to the country, and it is not just from one source. Allow me to say just that much.”
Khatibzadeh’s comments were vague enough to cover a lot of possibilities. In advance of nuclear talks scheduled to resume in two weeks, Iran might be trying to show a full hand by claiming not to be in a dire financial situation. It is also possible that the claim is based on recouping payments from some current illicit oil exports and not necessarily funds officially frozen by other countries, such as South Korea and Iraq.
Khatibzadeh also announced that Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, has been invited to visit Iran and the foreign ministry has proposed a date and is waiting to hear back from him. However, this contradicts comments by Grossi who expressed his disappointment on November 12 at having no contact with the Iranian government.
Grossi told reporters it is “astonishing” that “I have not had any contact with this government” that has been in office for five months, except “technical” conversations with the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency.
Iran has curtailed IAEA’s monitoring access to its nuclear facilities since the beginning of the year, demanding that the United States should lift sanctions imposed since 2018.
Khatibzadeh’s comment about Iran having extended an invitation to Grossi comes days before the IAEA Board of Governors is scheduled to meet in Vienna where Grossi could criticize Tehran for lack of cooperation.
The Iranian spokesman insisted that “technical” interactions with IAEA are “in a good path” and we are waiting for Grossi’s response. If he travels to Iran, he will meet with foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. Grossi had complained in October that he had had no meeting with the new foreign minister.