South Korea to continue US talks to get Iran sanctions waiver: Envoy

Seoul is in constant talks with Washington to convince that it needs to keep buying Iranian gas condensates or it will face huge costs in modifying its refinery installations.

21 May 2019
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Seoul is in constant talks with Washington to convince that it needs to keep buying Iranian gas condensates or it will face huge costs in modifying its refinery installations.

South Korean Ambassador to Iran Jeong-Hyun Ryu during an interview with Irans Tasnim News Agency. Photo courtesy of agency/Mohammad Hasanzadeh

South Korea says US decision to end the Iran oil waivers will incur huge costs on the country, adding that Seoul will continue negotiations with Washington to get new sanctions exemptions.

“Our refineries have been designed for Iranian gas condensates and if we want to import them from somewhere else, we need to change our installations which will be a very costly and time-consuming process,” South Korean Ambassador to Iran Jeong-Hyun Ryu was cited by Tasnim News Agency on Tuesday.

“That’s why we were looking for US sanctions waivers,” he added.

The US previous sanctions waivers expired on 2 May. The White House didn’t renew them afterwards, claiming it wants to “bring down Iranian oil sales and revenues to zero”. South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, India, Turkey, Greece and Italy were exempted from the unilateral US sanctions on Iranian oil.

Greece and Italy were the only two countries that didn’t load any Iranian crude cargo during the six-month period (4 November-2 May).

The South Korean envoy stressed that Seoul will keep negotiating with Washington to obtain new waiver “so that we can find a way”.

Ryu, who has spent the last year in Iran, noted that the US is also impeding barter trade between Iran and South Korea.

“These are hard times and we are seeking to continue trade with Iran through the Iranian deposits in South Korean banks,” he mentioned, saying that US hasn’t given any “clear response”. “They are keen on cutting down imports from Iran to zero,” the official said.

South Korea resumed imports of Iranian oil in January after a four-month hiatus, customs data showed, but shipments were down 76 percent from the same month last year, Reuters reports.

The world's fifth-largest crude importer won a six-month waiver in November from U.S. sanctions on Tehran's oil exports, but did not immediately start imports, mainly due to payment and insurance issues.

South Korea, one of Iran's biggest Asian customers, imported 227,941 tonnes of Iranian crude in January, or 53,676 barrels per day (bpd), data from the country's customs office showed. This was well down on 950,013 tonnes of Iranian crude a year earlier.

Hard times for Samsung, LG

“I had a meeting at my residence with representatives of the big South Korean companies that are in Iran. They told me it’s very hard for them to do business in Iran at the moment,” head of the South Korean mission in Iran was cited as saying.

He emphasised that such companies won’t leave Iran but that shipping products from South Korea and shipping insurance are the major problems for them, right now.

Earlier, Joint Iran-South Korea Chamber of Commerce President Hossein Tanhai said many South Korean Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) have gone bankrupt following the unilateral US sanctions on Iran.

“After the sanctions, many big South Korean companies were forced to take caution in dealing with Iran. Also Woori Bank and Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) faced many problems in handling financial transactions with Iran,” he was cited as saying by Tasnim News Agency.

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