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Iran Says First Steps Taken To Launch South Korean Humanitarian Trade Mechanism

Abbas Mousavi, spokesman for Iranian Foreign Ministry. FILE PHOTO

Iran’s foreign ministry announced on Monday, May 18 that “preliminary steps and political consultations were undertaken” to launch a South Korean “humanitarian channel” for Iran.

South Korean foreign ministry announced March 22 that Seoul is exploring ways to provide humanitarian assistance to Iran to fight the coronavirus epidemic.

President Hassan Rouhani had reportedly sent a letter to his South Korean counterpart earlier this month and Iran made requests through other channels, prompting Seoul to focus on the issue.

Since the reimposition of U.S. trade and banking sanctions on Iran in 2018, Tehran has been complaining that it cannot meet some of its essential medical needs. The U.S. says that its sanctions do not limit trade in food and medical supplies, but some argue that banking restrictions impact humanitarian trade.

The United States reached a similar agreement with Switzerland in December 2019 to open a humanitarian trade channel with Iran to allow Swiss companies to sell food and medicine, with the first transaction already completed. The agreement means companies that sell approved items to Iran need not fear any U.S. retaliation.

Abbas Mousavi, the spokesperson of Iran’s foreign ministry, today also referred to the Swiss humanitarian trade channel and said Tehran will try to activate the mechanism, although at least one major shipment was already sent to Iran.

Iran, which has been demanding an end to U.S. sanctions has repeatedly asked for trade channels not to be limited to humanitarian shipments.