The United States Special Representative for Iran Robert Malley (undated)

The United States Special Representative for Iran Robert Malley

US Envoy Malley, South Korean Top Diplomat Discuss Iran

6/11/2022

The United States Special Representative for Iran Robert Malley held an “excellent” phone conversation with South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun about Iran.

Malley said in a tweet on Friday that Washington and Seoul “are committed to coordinating our efforts across a wide range of shared interests on Iran.”

He did not elaborate on what exactly was discussed but the two diplomats probably talked about the Islamic Republic’s frozen assets in Korean banks due to US sanctions. 

Since the beginning of the year, Iran and South Korea announced on several occasions that they would start negotiations to devise a mechanism to release the funds frozen, but nothing materialized.

Two South Korea banks hold $7-9 billion of Iranian money, owed for oil imports, but the funds are locked under US sanctions, which were reimposed after former President Donald Trump in 2018 withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

In April, Iranian media said $7 billion of Iran's frozen funds in South Korea will be freed in exchange for the release of three American dual citizens held as hostages in Tehran.

Iranian hardliner newspaper funded by Iran’s Supreme Leader suggested later in April that Iran must close the Strait of Hormuz to South Korean vessels until Seoul releases $7 billion frozen funds.

US National Security advisor Jake Sullivan said in May that Iran’s money in South Korea and elsewhere will remain frozen as long as a nuclear deal has not been reached.

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