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Senior S. Korean, Iranian officials discuss frozen assets

South Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun (2nd from L) meets with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Bagheri Kani, in Vienna on Thursday, to discuss issues of Tehran's frozen assets under US sanctions, in this photo provided by Seoul's foreign ministry. (Seoul foreign ministry)
South Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun (2nd from L) meets with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Bagheri Kani, in Vienna on Thursday, to discuss issues of Tehran's frozen assets under US sanctions, in this photo provided by Seoul's foreign ministry. (Seoul foreign ministry)
Senior diplomats of South Korea and Iran had discussions on Iranian assets frozen here under US sanctions, the foreign ministry said Friday, with the thorny bilateral issue on the table for the talks in Vienna aimed at restoring the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

Seoul's First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun met with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Bagheri Kani, in the Austrian capital Thursday (local time), on the sidelines of the eighth round of negotiations to salvage the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

South Korea is not directly involved in the nuclear negotiations, but it has been closely watching relevant developments amid prolonged standoffs with Iran over the frozen assets.

During the meeting, Choi expressed hope for an early agreement on the nuclear deal, ditched by the Donald Trump administration in 2018, and the two sides shared the understanding that Tehran's frozen assets should be released soon, according to the ministry.

The two sides also agreed to push for working-level consultations on details related to a money transferring process, the ministry said.

Iran has around $7 billion in funds frozen at two South Korean banks – the Industrial Bank of Korea and Woori Bank. Tehran has demanded the release of the funds.

The fate of the frozen assets apparently depends on the negotiations between Iran and the world powers because it needs the approval of the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control to be released, according to Seoul officials.

On Wednesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the sanctions relief issue was at the heart of the ongoing talks and that "Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed." (Yonhap)
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