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[Herald Interview] 'All countries responsible' for victim support in Gaza Strip, says Iranian envoy

Ambassador denies Iran's alleged involvement in Hamas attack

Oct. 23, 2023 - 15:00 By Shin Ji-hye
Iranian Ambassador to Korea Saeed Koozechi speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at his office in Seoul on Friday. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

Iranian Ambassador to Korea Saeed Koozechi expressed deep concern over the Israel-Palestine conflict and its devastating impact on civilian populations, calling for the international community to support victims of the crisis in the Gaza Strip.

“All countries are officially responsible for supporting the victims of these conflicts,” said Koozechi in an interview with The Korea Herald.

With the rising number of casualties, Koozechi stressed that the global community should to play an "active and effective role" to end the suffering of non-combatant individuals in the Gaza region.

“Emergency aid is blocked, the area is completely surrounded, and the hospitals in Gaza are on the brink of collapse. There's no electricity and fuel. This will go down as a dark mark on humanity.”

The UN Security Council failed to adopt a resolution put forth by Brazil that would have called for humanitarian pauses to all full, safe and unhindered access for UN agencies and their partners in the ongoing Israel-Gaza crisis, due to a veto cast by a permanent member of the Council, the US.

The ambassador, however, denied speculations of Iranian involvement in the Hamas attack. “It's not true,” he said, claiming that Iran has been actively trying to control and resolve the situation since the crisis began.

Regarding the speculation around the release of $6 billion of Iranian funds that have been frozen in Korean banks since 2019, Koozechi dismissed these claims as “humor” and clarified that the funds, which have now been unfrozen and transacted to Qatar, remain untouched by Iran. “We haven't used a penny of this amount yet,” he confirmed.

The US and Qatar have agreed to prevent Iran from directly accessing $6 billion in Qatari banks. This fund originates from oil export revenues frozen in South Korea due to US sanctions against Iran.

The US and Iran agreed in August to unfreeze the fund on the condition of a mutual prisoner exchange of five detainees. To prevent Iran from using the funds for military purposes, a stipulation was added that Qatar, a US ally, would oversee Iran's access to the money.

Early this month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that it is not clear there was any involvement by Iran in Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel. He also added none of the $6 billion released to Iran has been spent.

Turning to the subject of Iran-South Korea relations, the ambassador reminisced about the once-strong economic ties between the two nations.

He underscored Iran's significant global standing, with the world's largest hydrocarbon reserves and strategic borders with 15 countries. With a massive domestic market of 85 million and nearly 600 million people in neighboring countries, Iran holds immense potential. Koozechi also lauded South Korea for its advanced technological capabilities, suggesting that both countries could complement each other well.

“I genuinely hope we can return to the prosperous times we once shared,” Koozechi said, underscoring a hopeful future for Iranian-South Korean relations.