TEHRAN – Hossein Tanhaei, head of the Iran-South Korea Joint Chamber of Commerce, said on Wednesday that South Korea has released $30 million of the Islamic Republic’s frozen oil money in the Asian country to be used for purchasing COVID-19 vaccine.

According to Tanhaei, South Korea had reached an agreement with Iran on releasing $1 billion of the mentioned frozen funds but so far only a small portion of this agreement has been realized.

The official underlined the significance of the negotiations on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for the return of the country’s blocked resources in other countries, saying: “If the negotiations reach an agreement, the process of repaying South Korea’s debt to Iran will be facilitated and accelerated.”

Iran and South Korea appear to be moving toward settling the thorny issue of Iran’s assets after a few rounds of failed negotiations in January. They are eager to find a solution to the issue. Over the past few months, both of them had proposed a number of solutions none of which broke the deadlock over the assets.

Back in January, Tanhaei had announced that the Islamic Republic was going to negotiate to barter its $7 billion of frozen oil money in South Korean banks for the COVID-19 vaccine and other basic goods.

“Yesterday, we had a meeting with First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri about our country’s blocked money in South Korea, and suggestions were made to be presented to South Korea on how to barter our money in this country with a variety of goods including COVID-19 vaccine,” Tanhaei told ILNA on January 3.

During his visit to Iran in January, Jong-kun met with Iran’s central banker to discuss how to release the Iranian assets. According to Iranian media, the South Korean diplomat proposed to provide Iran with ambulances and coronavirus test kits using Iran’s assets, but Iran rejected the offer, saying that it wants to use the money to purchase foods and medicines. Iran also said that the Korean proposal did not include the release of all Iran’s frozen assets.

With the negotiations still going on, Tehran and Seoul seem to be in the final stage of resolving the assets issue given South Korea’s close contacts with the Biden administration, which has promised to rekindle diplomacy with Iran by reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the JCPOA.

TEHRAN – The value of Iran’s non-oil trade with its 15 neighbors reached $36.502 billion in the previous Iranian calendar year (ended on March 20), according to the spokesman of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration (IRICA).

Iran traded 82.535 million tons of commodities with the neighboring countries in the mentioned year, Rohollah Latifi said.

Last year, the country exported 67.84 million tons of non-oil goods worth $20.357 billion to the neighboring countries, while importing 14.7 million tons of goods worth $16.145 billion.

Iraq was Iran’s top export destination by importing 25.67 million tons of commodities worth $7.448 billion from the Islamic Republic, while the lowest volume of exports was made to Bahrain with only $8.473 million, according to Latifi.

After Iraq, the main export destinations for Iranian products and goods were the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Turkey, and Afghanistan.

On the other hand, the highest volume of Iran’s imports from neighboring countries was made from the UAE with 5.136 million tons of goods worth $9.757 billion, and the lowest volume of imports belonged to Bahrain from which only $946,808 worth of goods were shipped in.

According to the official, despite the difficulties created by the outbreak of coronavirus and the U.S. sanctions in recent years, the volume of foreign trade with neighbors has been acceptable.

Based on the latest customs data, last year, Iran traded a total of 145.7 million tons of goods worth $73 billion with its trade partners, of which 112 million tons worth $34.256 billion were exports and 34.4 million tons worth $38.4 billion were imports.

Increasing non-oil exports to the neighboring countries is one of the major plans that the Iranian government has been pursuing in recent years.

Iran shares land or water borders with 15 countries namely UAE, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Saudi Arabia.

According to IRICA, Iran currently exports non-oil commodities to 40 European countries, 21 Asian countries, 28 African countries, and 12 American countries, while importing from 41 European countries, 31 Asian countries, 12 American countries, and 11 countries in Africa.