Humanitarian Trade Talks With Seoul
EghtesadOnline: South Korea is seeking to sell medicine and medical equipment in lieu of its arrears to Iran blocked in the south eastern country’s banks, head of Iran-South Korea Joint Chamber of Commerce said.
Hossein Tanhaee estimated the Korea’s debt to Iran to be in the region of $7.5 billion. “This is while trade between the two countries is now close to zero” due to the US economic sanctions. South Korea is a close ally of the United States.
In a talk with IRNA, Tanhaee said the two sides are in talks to sell medical equipment to Iran. This would be in partial exchange for the billions in Iranian money frozen by the Seoul government nervous about Washington’s ire and its unending hostility towards countries and companies wanting to do business, including humanitarian trade, with Tehran.
“The Health Ministry is in charge of determining the goods that would be imported. It is preparing a contract should be implemented in two weeks”.
“Several meetings have been held with South Korean officials and they have given promises none of which have been kept.”
Tanhaee did not elaborate on the value of medical equipment that are to be imported from the Koreans, but said they had earlier agreed to a cargo of $50 million.
Regarding Tehran’s objections about Korea’ failure to settle its debt, Tanhaee said, “Our efforts to pursue the issue is premised on logic and South Korea should be responsive”.
Iran may be forced to resort to international courts to settle the issue if negotiations fail, he warned. “If negotiations do not lead to a positive outcome, Iran will resort to other measures… like lodging a complaint against South Korea in international courts”.
Citing the foreign ministry in Seoul, Yonhap news agency reported last week that South Korea and Iran held the first "working group" session via a video link on Tuesday on humanitarian trade
During a high-level videoconference last month, the two sides agreed to setting up the working group, as Tehran strives to buy medicine and medical equipment to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Tuesday's session, the two sides plan to discuss priority items for export to Iran, trade procedures and how to “operate the newly minted dialogue platform,” the ministry said.
"Our government will continue smooth cooperation among relevant agencies and active consultations with Iran to support our enterprises seeking to enter the Iranian market for humanitarian items such as medicine and medical equipment," the ministry in Seoul said.
Korea is trying to increase humanitarian exports to Iran after the United States gave the green light to such exports in April based on its General License No. 8 -- a mechanism to authorize certain humanitarian transactions with Iran.