South Korea asks Qatar to help get back ship from Iran
South Korea has sought Qatar's assistance to secure the release of a ship and its crew detained by Iran, local media reported on Thursday.
Choi Jong-kun, South Korea's first vice foreign minister, made the request during meetings with top Qatari officials, according to Yonhap News Agency.
Jong-kun met Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar's deputy prime minister and foreign minister, and Soltan bin Saad al-Muraikhi, minister of state for foreign affairs, separately in Doha on Wednesday.
He requested "the maximum support possible from the Qatari side to resolve the matter," the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Jong-kun held talks with his Iranian counterpart Abbas Araqchi in Tehran on Monday but the two sides failed to reach an agreement.
Iran has urged Seoul to "avoid politicizing the issue," while pressing for the release of over $7 billion worth of Iranian assets frozen in South Korea.
The South Korean-flagged oil tanker with 20 crew members, including five South Koreans, was seized by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in the Persian Gulf on Jan. 4.
Iranian authorities claimed the vessel, which was carrying 7,200 tons of ethanol to South Korea from Saudi Arabia's Al-Jubail port, violated environmental protocols and was polluting the sea.
The ship is currently at a port in Bandar Abbas, a city on Iran's southern coast.
Tensions between Seoul and Tehran have soared after South Korea recently froze billions of dollars in Iranian funds under US sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program.
Around 3 trillion won ($2.7 billion) deposited by the Seoul branch of Iran's Bank Mellat have been held by the Bank of Korea, while about $7 billion worth of Iranian oil money was frozen by the Industrial Bank of Korea and Woori Bank, according to a Yonhap report last week.