Iran’s funds blocked in South Korea will be released after consultations with the United States, Seoul has announced Tuesday according to Korea Times. South Korean banks have blocked an estimated $7 billion of Iranian funds from oil exports that were not possible to be transferred du to US sanctions against Tehran.
"Our government has been in talks with Iran about ways to use the frozen assets, and the Iran side has expressed its consent to the proposals we have made," the foreign ministry was quoted as saying without providing further details of the proposals.
The chairman of Iran’s central bank Abdolnaser Hemmati announced on Monday that he had reached an agreement with Korea’s ambassador in Tehran Ryu Jeong-hyun on “methods of transferring and using” the funds for “intended purposes.” He did not say how much of the $7 billion of Iran’s frozen funds were affected but his reference to “intended purposes” suggests the funds would be used for specific categories.
South Korea once supplied Iran with a limited quantity of medical needs and further humanitarian supplies night be the purpose of any deal made between Tehran and Seoul.
Tehran, desperate for cash, has been putting a lot of pressure on Seoul to have the money released but during former President Donald Trump’s administration no agreement was reached.
Two weeks before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Iran seized a South Korean vessel in the Persian Gulf “on environmental grounds,” although many detected an attempt to force Seoul to negotiate over the blocked funds. South Korea’s official news agency has reported that Iran is demanding the immediate unfreezing of $1 billion.
Canada Offers Residency To Families Of Downed Ukrainian Plane
Canada has announced it will grant permanent residency to families of victims of two air disasters, the Ukrainian plane shot down by Iran and the Ethiopian Flight 302.
The new policy offers Canadian residency to immediate and secondary relatives of the victims who are currently in Canada or have applied for permanent residency. A new website set up for the purpose would accept applications, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has announced.
The Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 was shot down by two missiles fired by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the early morning of January 8, 2020, hours after Iran fired missiles at two US bases in Iraq. Authorities did not close the civilian airspace and then air defense units fired at the plane as it took off from Tehran. Iran has not yet given a full explanation of what led to the disaster.
Mendicino said that the granting of permanent residency to relatives of the victims will stay valid until May 2022, to demonstrate compassion and solidarity with the families in their efforts to seek justice.
Groups of families have gone to Canadian courts to demand justice, suing the Iranian government and individual officials.
Fifty-five Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 people who died in the Ukrainian plane incident. Eighteen Canadians died in the Ethiopian plane that crashed in March 2019 near Addis Ababa killing all 157 people aboard.
Governor Of Oil-Rich Iran Province Says Unemployment Up To 50 Percent
The governor of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province has said that “usually unemployment figures [in Iran] are not real” and unemployment in his province is between 45-50 percent. The official government unemployment rate in Iran is around 10-11 percent.
Qasem Soleimani-Dashtaki pointing to the fact that in official government figures Khuzestan’s unemployment rate is cited to be around 14.5 percent, said “if you look around in this province, unemployment is much higher and, in many areas, it is around 45-50 percent”.
The governor also pointed out that according to Iran’s method of calculating unemployment, two hours of work per week is considered employment, which “is totally meaningless”.
International organizations, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have no direct presence in Iran and rely on government statistics to measure the country’s economic health.
US sanctions since 2018 have badly hurt the economy, which has been in contraction for three years. Forecasts say in 2021 Iran’s economy might reach a small growth but it would depend on political factors, such as a resolution to US-Iran relations and at least a partial lifting of American sanctions.
Khuzestan’s governor urged an improvement of the economic conditions in the province. He stated that many industrial entities have stopped production or have minimized their activities. Many companies have been taken over by banks that are state controlled, he said and urged the return of these companies to their owners to stimulate production.
Iran Regulator Denies Mass ‘Disappearance’ Of Covid Vaccines
The spokesman of the regulatory Iran Food and Drug Agency, Kianoush Jahanpour, tweeted Thursday to deny that a large quantity of imported Covid-19 vaccines had disappeared. Mohsen Dehnavi, a principlist member of parliament and active critic of the government over Covid management, this week alleged in a television interview that 200,000 of 2 million imported vaccine doses have “disappeared.”
Jahanpour wrote that the government had obtained 3.2 million vaccines, which were held by the health ministry and in the vaccination pipeline. He suggested that what had disappeared was the “honesty of some politicians and remarks backed by facts.” Jahanpour on Wednesday had conceded in an interview that some fraud had taken place in vaccine distribution.
Iran was the second country after China where the Covid pandemic spread in February 2020, but its response has been haphazard. It has failed to start mass vaccination of its more than 83 million population and has not made an effective attempt to procure a large quantity of vaccines.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned American and British vaccines in January, while Iran imported a limited quantity from Russia and China. Other countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Chile have bought large quantities from China, but Iran despite close relations with Beijing has not imported enough Chinese vaccines to start mass vaccination.
Houthis Launch Missile, Drone Attack On Saudi Arabia
Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group on Thursday said its forces had launched 12 ballistic missiles and drones towards a site belonging to the Saudi state oil company Saudi Aramco, Najran airport and other targets in Najran, in southern Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi forces in Yemen said it had intercepted and destroyed eight drones and three ballistic missiles fired towards Saudi Arabia, without specifying where.
Houthis have been attacking Saudi oil and other installations, including airports, with missiles and drones that UN experts have said have Iranian origin. Missile and Drone attacks escalated in 2021 as the new US Administration delisted the Houthis as a ‘terrorist’ organization and pushed for de-escalation and peace talks.
Iran and Saudi Arabia began talks last month to improve relations after years of instability in the region, sparked by wars in Syria and Yemen. At the same time, the US is engaged in indirect talks with Iran in an attempt to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Thursday is the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
The Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Houthis.
With reporting by Reuters
EU's Borrell Says Iran Nuclear Talks Moving To Crucial Stage
BRUSSELS, May 10 (Reuters) - Negotiations in Vienna between world powers and Iran are moving into a crucial stage and the next few weeks will be critical to saving their 2015 nuclear deal, the European Union's top diplomat said on Monday.
U.S. officials returned to Vienna last week for a fourth round of indirect talks with Iran on how to resume compliance with the deal, which former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, prompting Iran to begin violating its limits on uranium enrichment about a year later.
"I am optimistic, there is a window of opportunity that will stay open for a couple of weeks, (until) end of the month," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, who is chairing the talks, told a news conference in Brussels.
"But a lot of work is needed, time is limited and I hope that the negotiations will enter into a phase of nonstop (talks) in Vienna," he said following a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
The crux of the 2015 agreement was that Iran committed to rein in its uranium enrichment program to make it harder to obtain the fissile material for a nuclear weapon, in return for relief from U.S., EU and U.N. sanctions.
Tehran denies having nuclear weapons ambitions.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described the negotiations as tough and laborious, but added that all participants were conducting them in a constructive atmosphere.
"However, time is running out. We aim for the full restoration of the Iran nuclear deal as this is the only way to guarantee that Iran will not be able to come into possession of nuclear weapons," Maas said in Brussels.
Afghan Lawmaker Accuses Iran Of Role In Bloody School Bombing
Remarks by a member of Afghanistan’s parliament Monday accusing Iran of a behind the scenes role in a school bombing on May 8 led to disruptions in the legislature.
Shahpur Hassanzoy representing Logar province told a session of parliament that Iran had a direct role in the bombing and said, “Iran’s spies are present in Afghanistan’s parliament and defend Iran’s actions”.
The bombing of a girl’s school in a Shiite area in Kabul has killed 85 people, Afghan officials told CNN on Monday.
Hassanzoy, who belongs to the Sunni Pashtun ethnic group, did not present any proof for his accusations, but his remarks led to protests by some other members of parliament. A member of parliament from the Shiite community called Hassanzoy’s remarks pouring “salt on the wound”.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has condemned the terror attack and blamed the Islamic State group for the violence. The Afghan government has blamed on the Taliban. The religious armed insurgents have attacked many schools before, but they have denied any role in the latest incident.
Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani has condemned the attack in the strongest terms, saying, “Groups of people belonging to darkness and ignorance try to keep our children away from science and progress with such attacks.”
German FM Minister Says Time Is Of Essence In Nuclear Talks With Iran
Time is of the essence in the Vienna negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday, adding talks were lengthy but conducted in a good atmosphere.
US officials returned to Vienna last week for a fourth round of indirect talks with Iran on how to resume compliance with the deal, which former US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 and imposed crippling oil export sanctions, prompting Iran to begin violating its terms about a year later.
“The negotiations are tough and laborious but all participants are conducting the talks in a constructive atmosphere,” Maas said on the margins of a meeting with his European Union counterparts in Brussels.
One of the main issues is which sanctions the United States will lift in exchange for Iran returning to its obligations in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA. Iran has been breaking its obligations step-by-step demanding the US lift sanctions.
“However, time is running out. We aim for the full restoration of the Iran nuclear deal as this is the only way to guarantee that Iran will not be able to come into possession of nuclear weapons,” he added.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Iran might agree to extend a temporary agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, due to expire May 21, over inspectors’ access to Iranian nuclear facilities. Khatibzadeh said this could be done if talks with world powers in Vienna were on “the right path.”
Reporting by Reuters
Iran Calls On Muslim World To Stand Up To Israel
Iran on Monday called on the Muslim world to respond to the "savagery" and "cruelty" of Israel against Palestinians, following the escalation of clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said in Tehran that Iran expresses "solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine."
Israeli police firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets clashed with Palestinian stone-throwers at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site on Monday, the latest in a series of confrontations that is pushing the contested city to the brink of eruption.
More than a dozen tear gas canisters and stun grenades landed in the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site, said an Associated Press photographer at the scene.
At least 215 Palestinians were hurt in the violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, including 153 who were hospitalized, Palestinian medics said.
Four of the injured were in serious condition. Police said nine officers were hurt, including one who was hospitalized.
Monday's confrontation was the latest in the sacred compound after days of mounting tensions between Palestinians and Israeli troops in the Old City of Jerusalem, the emotional ground zero of the conflict.
Hundreds of Palestinians and about two dozen police officers have been hurt over the past few days.
Iran Confirms Talks With Saudi Arabia, Promises Best Efforts
Iran's foreign ministry confirmed publicly for the first time on Monday that it is in talks with its regional arch rival Saudi Arabia, saying it would do what it could to resolve issues between them.
"De-escalation of tensions between the two Muslim countries in the Persian Gulf region is in the interest of both nations and the region," foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a televised weekly news conference.
Iran was waiting for the outcome of the talks, he said: "We welcome resolving of the issues that have existed between the two countries ... We will use our best efforts in this regard."
Rayed Krimly, head of policy planning at Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry, last week told Reuters that talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran were aimed at reducing regional tensions. He said it was too early to judge the outcome and Riyadh wanted to see “verifiable deeds”.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have been locked in a rivalry and proxy conflicts across the region, from Yemen to Syria to Iraq. The two countries cut diplomatic ties in 2016. Middle East officials and sources said last month that they had held two rounds of talks.
The arrival of President Joe Biden in the United States has altered the diplomatic calculus across the Middle East. Washington aims to restart a nuclear deal with Iran that Biden's predecessor Donald Trump abandoned, and has called for Saudi Arabia to end a war against Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi forces.
Some sources told Reuters last month that Tehran had promised to use its influence to halt Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, in return asking Riyadh to support the nuclear talks.
Reporting by Reuters