Iran releases seized South Korean tanker: Seoul overseas ministry

Launch of Hankuk Chemi vessel seized by the Revolutionary Guards in January comes as Iran and world powers search to revive 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran has launched a South Korean-flagged tanker it seized and the vessel’s captain amid a dispute over billions in frozen oil funds, the overseas ministry in Seoul mentioned on Friday.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Hankuk Chemi in January however the South’s overseas ministry mentioned in an announcement that its detention had been lifted and “the ship departed safely right this moment”.

The ship, with its captain and 12 different crew members on board, left the Iranian port at roughly 6am (013:0 GMT), the South Korean overseas ministry added.

The crew members have stayed on the ship for upkeep functions, though earlier stories mentioned that the crew had been allowed to depart Iran as early as February.

The discharge got here amid hypothesis that Seoul and Tehran are making progress in addressing Iran’s name to unlock its funds of $7bn frozen in South Korea beneath United States sanctions.

World powers and Iran are additionally at present engaged in talks in Vienna to revive the nuclear deal, which the US deserted through the earlier administration of former President Donald Trump.

The Hankuk Chemi incident was the primary seizure of an enormous vessel by Iran’s naval forces in additional than a yr.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy cited “environmental air pollution” as the idea for the seizure.

The vessel, which was led to Bandar Abbas after being seized, was mentioned to be carrying 7,200 tonnes of ethanol, in keeping with the IRGC Navy.

In December, the governor of the Central Financial institution of Iran mentioned Tehran has $7bn locked away in South Korea. Iranian Overseas Minister Javad Zarif was later quoted as saying that the quantity is nearer to $10bn.

Iran has for months been making an attempt to make use of the cash to purchase COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX, a world vaccine effort working beneath the World Well being Group.

The US imposed harsh financial sanctions on Iran after Trump, in Might 2018, unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear cope with world powers.

In July 2019, the IRGC seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero within the Strait of Hormuz for allegedly ramming a fishing boat. They launched it two months later.

The IRGC seized at the least six different ships in 2019 over alleged gas smuggling.

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