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EghtesadOnline: Seoul said it will soon dispatch a diplomatic team to Tehran for talks over the seizure of its tanker by Iran over environmental violations.

"A delegation ... will be dispatched to Iran at the earliest possible date to try to resolve the matter through bilateral negotiations," South Korea’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Choi Young-sam said at a regular press briefing on Tuesday.

He added that the delegation will be led by Director General for African and Middle East Affairs Koh Kyung-sok, IRNA reported, citing Yonhap News Agency.

Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun is also expected to bring up the issue during his previously arranged visit to Iran early next week, according to the diplomat. 

The main aim of Choi’s visit is to discuss ways of releasing Iranian oil money frozen in South Korean banks due to American sanctions.

Iranian naval forces said on Monday that the South Korean-flagged MT Hankuk Chemi tanker had been seized upon the request of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization and the verdict of the prosecutor office’s of Hormozgan Province. 

The statement added that the ship, carrying 7,200 tons of ethanol, was being held for repetitive violations of maritime environmental law and polluting Persian Gulf waters with chemicals.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh explained on Monday that the impounding of the vessel was solely on technical grounds, as it was causing environmental damage.

Also on Tuesday, Iranian Government Spokesman Ali Rabiei roundly dismissed allegations that Tehran was holding the vessel “hostage”, saying it is in fact Seoul that is holding $7 billion of Iran’s funds hostage.

“We’ve become used to such allegations ... but if there is any hostage-taking, it is Korea’s government that is holding $7 billion belonging to us hostage on baseless grounds,” Rabiei told reporters at a news conference streamed live online.



Iran Tehran South Korea tanker