Iran is stepping up its efforts to use its foreign currency reserve assets abroad, notwithstanding pressure from Washington, President Hassan Rouhani has said.
Speaking at a meeting of the economic co-ordination headquarters on Tuesday, Rouhani said that the Government would work to accelerate the implementation of agreements with countries in the region to regain access to and make use of Iranian assets located abroad.
Rouhani’s comments come after an announcement by Iranian Central Bank governor Abdolnaser Hemmati on Monday that Tehran had reached an agreement with Iraqi officials to unlock Iranian assets stuck in Iraqi banks to buy basic commodities and humanitarian goods exempt from US restrictions. Iraqi banks are believed to contain up to $5 billion in Iranian assets amid Iran’s export of large quantities of electricity and gas to the war-torn nation.
In his comments on Tuesday, Rouhani said Iran’s use of funds held abroad has increased despite US efforts to restrict Tehran’s economic interaction with other nations.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, also present at the meeting, presented Rouhani and other members of the government a report on his recent visit to China, where he spoke with Chinese officials about expanding economic co-operation in areas including tourism, industry, IT, communications and financial and monetary exchange mechanisms.
Iran-China agree on central issue of 25-year $300 million economic, military pact - use of non-dollar (yuan) currency for payments. Big breakthrough for China This clears the way for pact. Rouhani prioritises ties with China...https://t.co/tA2965SSfW— M. K. Bhadrakumar (@BhadraPunchline) October 13, 2020
Rouhani also noted that Iran must expand its co-operation with the Eurasian Union, saying Tehran has the capacity not only to provide the Russia-led bloc with goods, but to serve as a partner for the transit of goods.
Washington slapped Tehran with tough energy and banking sanctions in May 2018 after the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement, which offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for a scaling back of its nuclear programme and a pledge not to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran is believed to have tens of billions of dollars in funds frozen in banks around the world, including nearly $2 billion in the United States. US courts have gradually eaten away at the Islamic Republic's wealth stashed in US coffers, ordering frozen funds to be used to pay the families of US servicemen killed in the 23 October 1983 truck bombings in Beirut, Lebanon, which Washington has blamed on Tehran, and to compensate victims of 9/11, despite the fact that Iran had nothing to do with the Twin Tower terrorist attacks.
In 2019, the International Court of Justice ruled that Iran has a legal claim to the $2 billion in assets it still has frozen in US banks. Last month, Washington urged the ICJ to throw out Iran’s bid to get its cash back, claiming that The Hague does not have jurisdiction in the case.