Iran Daily

Iran, South Korea agree on mechanisms for release of assets: Zarif

- By Aarti Tikoo Singh*

Tehran and Seoul have achieved a consensus about mechanisms to unfreeze the Iranian funds, said the Iranian foreign minister.

In comments on Wednesday, Mohammad Javad Zarif regretted that despite the agreement on the mechanisms to release the Iranian assets held in South Korea, the Koreans “have apparently not obtained the necessary permission­s so far,” Tasnim News Agency reported.

“The foreign minister of South Korea said they’d do their utmost for the case to yield results,” he added.

Iran believes that a permission from the US is not necessary, Zarif said, adding South Korea, however, is trying to get authorizat­ion from Washington to release the blocked Iranian funds.

The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) announced last week that an agreement has been reached on transferri­ng the Iranian financial assets to certain destinatio­ns, as South Korea has been informed about the CBI’S decisions about the volume of the transactio­ns and the destinatio­n banks.

Iran has been pressing South Korea to release between $6.5 billion and $9 billion dollars in funds that had been frozen since 2018 when the US imposed its unilateral sanctions on Iran after its unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehens­ive Plan of Action, signed between Tehran and the P5+1 in July 2015.

The release of the funds is believed to enable Tehran to purchase medicine and medical equipment needed to fight the coronaviru­s pandemic.

An explosion struck a Dutch coronaviru­s test center in a “cowardly act of destructio­n” on Wednesday, shattering windows but causing no injuries, police and government officials said.

The early morning blast in the town of Bovenkarsp­el, 60 kilometers (40 miles) north of the capital Amsterdam, was caused by a metal cylinder left outside the building, police said, AFP reported.

The incident comes weeks after another testing center was burned down during violent riots across the Netherland­s against a coronaviru­s curfew.

“Police were called at 6.55 a.m. by a security guard from the corona test center to say that an explosion had taken place. He had heard a loud bang and then saw that several windows of the building had broken,” a police statement said.

“Outside the building was a metal cylinder that had exploded. No one was injured in the incident.”

North Holland police spokesman Menno Hartenberg said the explosion appeared to be deliberate.

“It’s not possible that this was by accident, the object was placed there and exploded near the front of the test center,” Hartenberg said.

“We are not ruling anything out and can’t say anything about a motive, an investigat­ion is underway.”

Hartenberg added: “It was a metal object somewhere between a tube and a canister.”

Police forensics officers in white overalls were conducting a fingertip search

of the area, which was cordoned off.

Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge condemned the attack, saying public health authoritie­s were “terribly shocked”.

“For over a year now, we have relied heavily on the people on the front lines. And then this. Insane,” de Jonge said on Twitter.

The Dutch GGD public health department

said it was “horrified” by the “aggressive and intimidati­ng” incident.

“Our people must be able to do this crucial work safely. This cowardly act of destructio­n affects us all,” GGD national president Andre Rouvoet said on Twitter.

A bomb squad was sent to determine whether any explosive material remained at the scene, public television network NOS reported.

The part of the Netherland­s in which Bovenkarsp­el is located is currently suffering one of the country’s most serious outbreaks, with 81 infections per 100,000 inhabitant­s, compared to a national average of 27.2, NOS said.

The Netherland­s has recorded more than one million coronaviru­s cases since the start of the pandemic and over 15,000 deaths.

Some 1.3 million people have received at least one dose of vaccine.

In January a COVID-19 testing center was set on fire in the conservati­ve protestant fishing village of Urk as protests broke out over the start of an overnight curfew in the Netherland­s.

The Netherland­s suffered several nights of rioting, the most violent the country has seen in decades.

The blast in Bovenkarsp­el came as the Dutch government on Wednesday began easing its toughest anti-virus measures since the pandemic began, ahead of elections in two weeks.

Anger over the COVID measures has been growing in the Netherland­s, as well as support for conspiracy theories about the virus.

India and Uzbekistan are swiftly moving to strengthen their partnershi­p to develop connectivi­ty in Central Asia via the Iranian port of Chabahar.

Last week, the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, Abdulaziz Kamilov, had visited New Delhi and met External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar to discuss various aspects of bilateral cooperatio­n, IANS reported.

Kamilov invited Jaishankar to attend an internatio­nal conference on regional connectivi­ty in Tashkent in July this year.

This was preceded by the India-uzbekistan Virtual Summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in December last year.

The two high-level meetings are significan­t in view of the change in the administra­tion in the US. Unlike the Donald Trump administra­tion, the recently elected government of Joe Biden in the US is keen on reengaging with Tehran.

It is likely that Biden may revive the Us-iran nuclear deal which had been signed under the Barack Obama administra­tion but was revoked by his successor Trump.

A landlocked country, Uzbekistan is interested in the Chabahar port that India is developing in Iran. Soon after Biden was elected in the US presidenti­al elections, Uzbekistan, India and Iran held their first trilateral meeting for the joint use of the port.

Home to almost half of Central Asian population, Uzbekistan is a fast-growing economy which has picked up pace under President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s economic reforms.

This has created huge demand for investment­s. Because of the lack of connectivi­ty to sea, the oil and gas-rich Central Asia remains largely dependent on China’s market.

The coronaviru­s pandemic related shutdown brought in a realizatio­n across the world that over dependence on China for essential and manufactur­ed goods was fraught with grave dangers. As a result, President Mirziyoyev has been keen on exporting to diverse markets, including India, via the Chabahar port.

New Delhi has invested $500 million in the Chabahar port, which connects India with Afghanista­n and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan. India’s budgetary allocation to Chabahar doubled in 2020-21 from the previous year.

In the meantime, Uzbekistan has built a 75-km railway line between Mazar-isharif and Hairatan town on the Uzbekafgha­n border.

Tehran has also built the first railway link between Afghanista­n and Iran. India and Uzbekistan under the 2011 Ashgabat Agreement are to build a transit and transport corridor between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.

Given the significan­ce of the partnershi­p with Tashkent on Chabahar, New Delhi confirmed a $448 million Line of Credit for the developmen­t of connectivi­ty related infrastruc­ture, informatio­n technology and energy in Uzbekistan.

Both the countries have also signed several agreements in various sectors apart from actively cooperatin­g in the regional platforms like the Shanghai Cooperatio­n Organizati­on (SCO) and the India-central Asia Dialogue (ICAD).

Asian markets rose Wednesday following the previous day’s losses but investors remain on guard over a possible correction as concerns about asset bubbles and a surge in inflation continue to play against progress in fighting coronaviru­s.

News of more vaccines coming on line and being rolled out, the expected passage of Joe Biden’s stimulus package, slowing infection rates and easing lockdowns are contributi­ng to the narrative that the global economy will see a burst of activity from the second half of the year, AFP reported.

But reflation expectatio­ns are causing a headache for investors, who fear the spending boom will send prices rocketing and force the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates – removing a key pillar of support for equities over the past year.

And this anxiety, compounded by a 12-month rally that has pushed equities to record or multi-year highs, has jolted markets recently.

Last week’s sell-off came on the back of rising US Treasury yields, an indication of rising interest rates, and while the bond market has steadied this week traders remain cautious.

Hopes for a quick bounce back were boosted Tuesday when the White House said it would have enough shots to immunize

every adult by the end of May, two months earlier than first thought.

But “so are the market’s inflation expectatio­ns”, said Axi strategist Stephen Innes. “And despite vaccine optimism trying to provide a booster shot to risk sentiment, it could prove to be a double-edged sword when inflation kicks in as expected,

more so if it then forces the Fed’s hand.”

Still in a bull market

And Katerina Simonetti at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management added: “We believe we’re still very much in a bull market, but certain pullbacks like the one we’ve seen since the beginning of this year are very natural and sometimes needed.

“If interest rates start moving higher and quicker than expected, then there’s a chance there might be more significan­t pullback in the market,” she told Bloomberg TV.

Asian investors brushed off a Wall Street retreat to push higher Wednesday, with Hong Kong rallying more than one percent while Shanghai, Singapore, Seoul and Taipei were also in positive territory.

Sydney enjoyed a healthy rally after data showed the economy grew more than expected towards the end of last year.

While trading floor scenes of worry about the prospect of rising borrowing costs, Fed officials continue to try to soothe concerns.

The latest was governor Lael Brainard, who said it would take “some time” for the central bank’s inflation and employment conditions to be met and push it to rethink its ultra-loose monetary policy.

“Even after the conditions for liftoff have been met, changes in that policy rate are likely to be only gradual,” she told the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank. A surge in inflation would likely be transitory rather than long-term, she added.

 ?? TASNIM ??
 ??  ?? A bomb squad was sent to determine whether any explosive material remained following an explosion near a COVID-19 test center in Bovenkarsp­el, Netherland­s, on March 3, 2021.
A bomb squad was sent to determine whether any explosive material remained following an explosion near a COVID-19 test center in Bovenkarsp­el, Netherland­s, on March 3, 2021.
 ?? IRNA * Aarti Tikoo Singh is an Indian journalist, who has a Masters degree in Internatio­nal Affairs from Columbia University in New York City. ??
IRNA * Aarti Tikoo Singh is an Indian journalist, who has a Masters degree in Internatio­nal Affairs from Columbia University in New York City.
 ?? Eugene Hoshiko/ap ?? a man wearing a protective mask walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan’s nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo, Japan, on March 3, 2021.
Eugene Hoshiko/ap a man wearing a protective mask walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan’s nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo, Japan, on March 3, 2021.

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