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Iran has released a South Korean-flagged tanker, the foreign ministry in Seoul said on Friday (April 9th). The Hankuk chemi had been seized in January and its twenty crew members of different nationalities arrested by the Revolutionary Guards, the ideological army of the Islamic Republic. Tehran had accused the ship which carried 7,200 tons of “Petroleum chemicals” marine pollution.

In a statement, the South Korean ministry clarified that the captain of the vessel has been released and that the tanker is “Left safely today”. Internet sites that track ships indicate that the 147-meter-long tanker is heading for the Strait of Hormuz.

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In February, Iran had allowed all crew members except the captain to leave the country for reasons “Humanitarian”, but most of them remained on board to maintain the tanker.

Frozen funds not mentioned

Iran was a major supplier of oil to South Korea until the country ceased its purchases under the pressure of US sanctions reinstated from 2018 by former US President Donald Trump on behalf of ‘a policy of “Maximum pressure” against Iran intended to dry up its oil revenues.

Tehran accused Seoul of holding back ” Held hostage “ seven billion dollars in funds (5.7 billion euros) belonging to Iran. South Korea announced in March that it had agreed to a solution to unlock the frozen funds but wait for the green light from Washington.

Read also South Korean flagged tanker seized by Iranian Revolutionary Guards

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said Washington would oppose it unless the Islamic Republic again fully complies with the international Iran nuclear deal. South Korea’s foreign ministry made no mention of the funds in its statement on Friday.

According to many South Korean media, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun will visit Tehran soon, without giving a date.

Previous seizures

Entering the Hankuk chemi was the first led by Iranian forces in over a year.

The Revolutionary Guards arrested the tanker in July 2019 Stena impero flying the British flag in the Strait of Hormuz – through which passes a fifth of the world’s oil production -, before releasing it two months later.

Read also Iran says oil tanker “Stena-Impero”, arrested in July, “free to move”

The boarding of the Stena impero was then seen as a response to the seizure by the British authorities in Gibraltar of an Iranian tanker who had been released, despite American objections. Tehran has denied any connection between the two incidents.

Iranian forces seized at least six other ships that year for suspected fuel smuggling.

The World with AFP

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