World South Korean Premier in Iran for Talks Over Frozen Oil Funds
U.S. tries to break Iran nuclear deadlock with a new proposal for Tehran
The proposal, which would include some sanctions relief for Iran, comes as Iranian elections loom.For now, however, Biden’s team is struggling just to get the Iranians to the table.
South Korea’s prime minister arrived in Tehran for talks over $7 billion of Iranian funds trapped in his country by U.S. sanctions, with a successful outcome likely to be seen as a confidence-building measure between the Islamic Republic and world powers.
Iran talks set up delicate dance for Biden team
The Biden administration is moving forward on steps to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, with officials set to participate in high level discussions with signatories to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna next week. The U.S. and Iran are not expected to meet face to face, although administration officials have said they remain open to direct talks. The Vienna meeting marks the most forward movement for the Biden team, which will engage with European, Russian and Chinese counterparts over what steps the U.S. can take to achieve a "mutual return" for both America and Iran.
Chung Sye-Kyun’s two-day trip, the first by a South Korean premier in 44 years and the highest-ranking visit by a Korean official since 2016, comes two days afterit had freed a South Korean-flagged tanker seized in January.
Iranian officials linked the vessel’s capture to the funds, which have been inaccessible since then-President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.
The U.S. and Iran, with the help of other signatories, are trying to find a way for the Biden administration to rejoin the accord and lift the penalties at talks in Vienna. Seoul is only expected to release some or all of the Iranian billions after a nod from Washington.
Iran escalated its nuclear activity after the U.S. abandoned the 2015 deal, fueling regional tensions, and on Saturday started injecting uranium gas into new centrifuge machines at its Natanz facility. The plant was hit by a so faroutage on Sunday that raised suspicions of sabotage.
Iranian officials have said they’ve been unable to access the country’s oil revenues from exports to South Korea as no bank has been willing to handle the transactions for fear of contravening the sanctions. They have accused Seoul of bending before U.S. pressure in defiance of official exemptions for humanitarian goods.
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What's going on with the Iran nuclear talks? .
Biden is trying to revive the international deal his predecessor walked away from, but the clock is ticking, and Iran is fuming over an attack on its nuclear infrastructure.President Joe Biden's administration wants to reverse his predecessor's unilateral withdrawal from the agreement, but the process was always going to be delicate. Sunday's attack on Iran's nuclear facility in Natanz has complicated things even further.