13:27 GMT16 July 2020
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    Tehran has repeatedly called on Washington to abandon its “illegal” sanctions against the Islamic Republic, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, accusing America of threatening the lives and wellbeing of millions of Iranians.

    Seoul has received a US export license allowing the Asian nation to resume humanitarian export deliveries to Iran, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official announced Friday.

    “On April 6, the humanitarian export process based on the General License No. 8 got underway,” the official said, his remarks quoted by South Korea’s Yonghap News Agency. “Our companies and banks should prepare documents needed to carry out enhanced due diligence, and we think that the shipments may begin about a month later,” he added.

    General License No. 8 is a US Department of Treasury exemption mechanism created in February 2020 that allows “certain humanitarian trade transactions involving the central bank of Iran,” even though the latter is ordinarily subject to US sanctions.

    Alongside the exemption mechanism, Seoul has proposed a Korean Humanitarian Trade Arrangement programme calling for the use of Iranian banking institutions which have yet to fall under US sanctions, such as the Middle East Bank, to allow for transactions to be carried out. The country is also looking at signing on to Switzerland’s Humanitarian Trade Arrangement, which allow Swiss companies to do business selling food and medical supplies to Iran.

    “South Korea is pushing for all three methods,” the Foreign Ministry official confirmed.

    Before the arrangement with the US was agreed upon this week, South Korean companies feared US sanctions retaliation against the sale of medicines and other goods to Iran, prompting trade to plummet.

    Tough Sanctions

    Before 2018, South Korea purchased as much as 10 percent of Iran’s crude oil exports, depending on the Islamic Republic for about 1/10 of its energy imports. However, in May 2018, the US unilaterally pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, and instituted tough energy and banking sanctions against Tehran, threatening other nations and companies with secondary sanctions if they continued to do business with the country. Seoul and most other countries diligently complied, stopping oil imports from the Middle Eastern nation in mid-2019.

    Iran, which became one of countries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic early on, has repeatedly called on Washington to stop hindering its energy exports, saying sanctions are depriving the country of income it could be using to buy much-needed medical and other equipment.

    “Iran is rich in human and natural resources. We don’t need charity from @realDonaldTrump – who’s forced to buy ventilators from sources he’s sanctions. What we want is for him to STOP preventing Iran from selling oil and other products, buying its needs and making and receiving payments,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote a recent tweet.

    The Trump administration continues to insist that there are “no sanctions” preventing humanitarian aid from being delivered to Iran, even while pressuring the International Monetary Fund to reject Tehran’s $5 billion loan request to help fight the pandemic, and enforcing new sanctions against nearly two dozen organizations and individuals doing business with the Islamic Republic.

    Iran has reported over 68,000 COVID-19 infections, with over 4,200 Iranians perishing from new coronavirus-related complications to date.

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