S.Korean team departs for Iran to negotiate over seized tanker

Seoul, Jan 7 : A South Korean delegation embarked on a visit to Iran on Thursday in an effort to try and negotiate the early release of an oil tanker which was seized by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in the Gulf over what Tehran claimed to be “repeated violations” of environmental protocols.

According to the South Korean government, the delegation is being led by Koh Kyung-sok, Director-General of the Foreign Ministry’s Africa and Middle Eastern Affairs, reports Yonhap News Agency.

The delegation will arrive in Tehran via Qatar.

“I plan to meet my counterpart at the Iranian foreign ministry, and will meet others through various routes if that will help efforts to address the ship’s seizure,” Yonhap News Agency quoted Koh as saying to reporters at the Incheon International Airport ahead of his departure.

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The tanker, Hankuk Chemi, was en route to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) when it was seized in the Gulf by the IRGC on Monday “for repeated violations of marine environmental laws”.

It was carrying 7,200 tonnes of chemicals derived from petroleum and 20 crewmembers — five South Koreans, 11 Myanmarese, two Indonesians and two Vietnamese.

The tanker is currently docked at a port in Bandar Abbas, a city on Iran’s southern coast.

The Yonhap news report said that South Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun is also likely to visit Iran next week.

On Wednesday, a team from the South Korean Embassy in Iran met a sailor of the tanker and confirmed that all the crewmembers were in good shape, according to the Foreign Ministry in Seoul.

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In a similar incident in 2019, Iran had seized the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero, two weeks after a British warship had intercepted an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar, leading to an escalation of tensions.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from IANS service.

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