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South Korean Prime Minister visits Iran to support efforts to revive the nuclear deal

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun arrived in Iran on Sunday to help revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and to release $ 7 billion in Iranian funds frozen in South Korea, officials in Seoul said.


Chung is the first South Korean prime minister to visit Iran in 44 years, in light of cold relations between the two countries due to Iran's military cooperation with North Korea.

Tensions rose after Iran seized a South Korean ship and its sailors in the Strait of Hormuz in January, accusing them of contaminating the waters, and demanding the release of $ 7 billion in assets frozen in South Korean banks under US sanctions.

Chung's trip comes days after Tehran released the ship and its captain, the last of its 20 crew members. Seoul pledged to help release the funds.

Iran and world powers held talks last week with the aim of reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, from which the United States withdrew three years ago under former President Donald Trump.

Iranian and South Korean media reports said that after talks on Sunday with Iran's First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, Chung showed his willingness to support efforts to revive the deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which aims to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Chung said that returning to the JCPOA will help improve relations between Seoul and Tehran, pledging to intensify cooperation with Washington and other countries on Iranian funds.

The administration of US President Joe Biden is trying to find a way to return to the agreement and lift the sanctions during the Vienna talks with Iran, with the mediation of the European parties to the agreement. Officials in Seoul have said they can only release Iranian billions with Washington's consent.

"The negotiations on the joint comprehensive action plan are taking place in a constructive manner, and it seems that ... developing relations and solving problems are necessary for the benefit and progress of the two countries," the Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency (IRNA) quoted Chung as saying at a joint press conference. The Iranian Foreign Ministry said the release of the Iranian funds was important for strengthening ties.

"Our relations have been affected by this issue ... Some solutions have been discussed, but it remains to be seen to what extent they can be implemented," ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters.

The Iranian agency reported that Chung, who visited Iran in 2017 as Speaker of Parliament, invited Jahangiri to visit South Korea and promised to provide medical supplies and expand cooperation between the two countries in combating the Corona virus.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said that an apparent cyber attack on Iran's Natanz nuclear facility on Sunday was the result of a "nuclear terrorist" act, adding that Tehran reserves its right to respond to the perpetrators of this act.

The Israeli Kan Radio quoted intelligence sources, who did not reveal their nationality, as saying that the Israeli Mossad carried out an electronic attack on the site.

Israel, which has accused Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons that can be used against it, has made no official comment on the incident.