South Korea pays Iran’s UN dues with frozen assets, restoring Tehran’s voting rights

2 South Korean banks hold more than $7 billion in Iranian funds for oil shipments, frozen under US sanctions

Iran's then-president Hassan Rouhani addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Iran's then-president Hassan Rouhani addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

SEOUL — South Korea has used $18 million of frozen Iranian assets to pay Tehran’s dues to the UN, Seoul said Sunday, in a move to immediately restore the country’s voting rights.

The payment was made Friday in cooperation with the United States and the UN after Iran made an “emergency request” asking South Korea to pay the dues, Seoul’s finance ministry said in a statement.

Iran has more than $7 billion in funds for oil shipments frozen at two South Korean banks due to US sanctions.

“Iran’s voting right at the UN General Assembly is expected to be immediately restored with the payment,” the ministry said.

Tehran’s mission to the UN told AFP the payment had been “completed.”

The Islamic republic was South Korea’s third-largest Middle Eastern trade partner before the United States unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions.

The UN cited unpaid dues when it suspended Iran’s voting rights at the General Assembly earlier this month.

Under the UN charter, a member country’s right to vote is suspended when its arrears equal or exceed the dues it should have paid over the preceding two years.

Iran also lost its vote over unpaid dues last year. It said it could not pay even the minimum amount because of US economic sanctions.

After months of negotiations it was granted an exemption — it was allowed to access money blocked by the US Treasury — and got back its vote in June in time for the election of new members of the Security Council.

Last week, Iran was the only nation to oppose a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly aimed at combating Holocaust denial, in what was just the second time since Israel’s establishment that a measure its delegation brought before the forum managed to pass.

One hundred and fourteen countries cosponsored Resolution A/76/L30 and only Iran publicly voiced its opposition. The representative from the Islamic Republic — whose leaders have a long history of Holocaust denial — claimed the resolution marked another attempt by Israel “to exploit the suffering of Jewish people in the past as cover for the crimes it has perpetrated over the past seven decades against regional countries.”

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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