Using bank funds freed from U.S. sanctions, Iran paid $ 16.2 million in unpaid United Nations dues, diplomats said on Friday, a move that restored Iran’s suspended voting rights to the global body.
Iran’s restored ability to access those funds, which had been confiscated from a Korean bank under sanctions imposed by former President Donald J. Trump, was apparently a conciliatory move by the Biden administration, which wants to reinstate the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran which Mr. Trump scrapped.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Department of the Treasury must license such transactions under US banking sanctions imposed on Iran. Asked for comment, the Treasury said in an emailed statement that the government “generally authorizes the payment of dues to the UN, including through OFAC general licenses and specific licenses.”
Under Article 19 of the Charter of the United Nations, a country which owes the previous two years of membership loses its vote in the General Assembly. The rumor that Iran was among the delinquent countries falling into this category was revealed last week by the office of Secretary General António Guterres.
Iran reacted with fury, calling its loss of voting rights “absurd” and blaming the arrears for its inability to access money from foreign banks that had been frozen under Trump-era sanctions. But Iranian officials also said at the time that negotiations were underway that would soon allow Iran to use money from a confiscated South Korean bank account to pay overdue dues.
In one Friday’s Twitter post, Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, announced that the contributions had been refunded and that his voting rights had been reinstated. Farhan Haq, spokesperson for Mr. Guterres, confirmed that “the Islamic Republic of Iran has paid the minimum amount due and is no longer subject to Article 19 of the United Nations Charter”.
He declined to elaborate on how the money was paid, “but it was certainly helped by the cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Korea and several different banks to make sure that we could carry out this. transaction”.
The news that Iran had paid dues with previously confiscated money was the second signal in two days from the Biden administration to try to show some flexibility on sanctions as nuclear talks progress. On Thursday, the administration lifted sanctions against three former Iranian government officials and two Iranian companies involved in the country’s oil industry.
Talks to bring Iran and the United States back into line with the nuclear deal have been underway in Vienna for weeks, and diplomats have reported progress. The deal was aimed at restricting Iran’s ability to turn nuclear fuel into a weapon and provide it with economic relief in return.
Iran began to violate the terms of the deal after Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from participation in 2018, reinstating the sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors that the agreement had lifted and imposing new ones. economic constraints to Iran in the hope of forcing the country to agree to much more restrictive terms.
Iranian officials have said they will revert to honoring the deal if the Biden administration first lifts sanctions. Administration officials have said Iran must return to compliance first.
Some diplomats involved in the Vienna talks have expressed optimism that a deal is near. But others have expressed skepticism about the possibility ahead of Iran’s presidential elections next Friday.
An outright cleric at the head of Iranian justice, Ebrahim Raisi, opposed to improving relations with the United States, should largely be declared the winner, succeeding Hassan Rouhani, considered a moderate cleric who played a role central in the 2015 nuclear crisis agreement.