Iran on Friday released a South Korean-flagged tanker it seized amid a dispute over billions of frozen oil funds, and the ship’s captain, the Seoul Foreign Ministry said.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Hankuk Chemi and its multinational crew of 20 sailors in January, but the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement its detention was lifted and “the ship was gone. safe and sound today “.
Vessel tracking websites showed the 147-meter-long (482-foot) vessel underway at 9 knots and heading for the Strait of Hormuz.
At the time of the seizure, Tehran said the vessel was carrying 7,200 tonnes of “petroleum chemicals” and accused it of “repeated violation of maritime environmental laws”.
The move came after Tehran urged Seoul to release billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets in South Korea under US sanctions over its nuclear program.
Tehran said in February that all the crew except the captain would be allowed to leave the country as a humanitarian gesture, but most of them remained on board to maintain the ship.
That same month, Seoul said the two had agreed on a path forward to freeing frozen billions of dollars from Iranian oil sales – but awaiting US approval.
Iran was a major supplier of oil to resource-poor South Korea until Washington’s rules blocked purchases, and Tehran says it has a total of $ 7 billion in funds stranded at Seoul.
– Vienna meeting –
Tehran struck a multinational deal known as the JCPOA to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief in 2015, but the deal was routed three years later when the United States withdrew under then-President Donald Trump.
New US President Joe Biden has indicated he is ready to revive the deal and negotiators have started meeting this week in Vienna to try to get it back on track.
But Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that Washington would oppose the release of funds stranded in South Korea unless the Islamic republic returns to full compliance with the nuclear deal.
South Korea’s foreign ministry made no mention of the money in its statement on Friday.
But several South Korean media reports indicate that Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun will visit Tehran soon, without giving a date for the trip.
No one from the vessel’s operator, DM Shipping, was immediately available for comment.
Tehran has repeatedly denied that the seizure of the vessel was linked to the issue of funds.
The Hankuk Chemi incident was the first seizure of a major vessel by Iranian naval forces in over a year.
In July 2019, guards seized the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz for allegedly ramming a fishing boat. They published it two months later.
At the time, this was widely seen as a tit-for-tat move after authorities in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar detained an Iranian tanker and then released it, despite state objections. -United.
Tehran has denied that the two cases were linked.
Guards seized at least six other ships in 2019 for suspected fuel smuggling.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by UK Time News staff and is posted Platforms.)