Frozen assets that are to be released to Iran in the imminent prisoner exchange are Iranian funds that have been held for years in South Korean banks, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Tuesday.
“It’s important to be very, very clear about this. The funds in question are not American funds. They’re not American taxpayer money,” said Blinken. “From day one of our sanctions, there has always been an exemption for the use of funds for humanitarian purposes.”
Several countries were allowed to buy oil from the Islamic Republic under the previous U.S. administration, with the money placed in special accounts, Blinken noted.
“The dollars that are being made available—that is, Iranian funds that are being made now available to Iran—this is a way of actually facilitating their use strictly for humanitarian purposes and in a strictly controlled way,” the secretary added. “Iran will not have direct access to these funds. There will be significant oversight and visibility from the United States.”
The Iranian Foreign Ministry referred to the funds in a statement as having been “illegally seized in South Korea by the United States for several years.”
“The decision on how to utilize these unfrozen resources and financial assets lies with the Islamic Republic of Iran,” it stated. “The competent authorities will allocate these resources to address the various needs of the country.”