Iran and South Korea to triple trade to $18 bn
Tehran // Iran and South Korea have decided to triple their annual trade volume to $18 billion (Dh66bn), president Hassan Rouhani announced on Monday after meeting his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye.
“The two sides decided to increase by three times the current trade volume of around $6 billion to $18 billion,” Mr Rouhani said in a joint televised press conference.
“We also spoke about tourism, direct flights between Seoul and Tehran, and Korean investment in Iranian tourism infrastructure, including building hotels,” he added.
Mr Rouhani also pushed for a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons, the official IRNA news agency reported, saying that Iran seeks a world free of weapons of mass destruction, “especially nuclear” weapons.
Ms Park is the first South Korean president to visit Iran since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1962, and as Seoul seeks new markets to turn around a lengthy decline in export revenues.
Her three-day visit comes just months after a historic nuclear deal with world powers lifted sanctions crippling Iran’s economy in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme.
Ms Park said she has asked for Iran’s help in implementing UN Security Council resolutions calling for the nuclear disarmament of the Korean peninsula.
The remarks were aimed at North Korea, which has been hit with tough U.N. sanctions over its nuclear weapons program. North Korea has conducted four nuclear bomb tests and tested a long-range rocket earlier this year.
Ms Park, who was accompanied by several ministers and a 230-strong business delegation, will also meet Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The two countries have pledged to develop their relations in the energy sector.
“We will expand relations in energy projects and infrastructure ... and in oil, gas, railways and ports,” Ms Park said.
South Korea, the world’s fifth largest importer of crude oil, used to be one of the biggest buyers of Iranian oil before the sanctions were imposed.
Tehran hopes this month to increase its oil exports to Seoul to 400,000 barrels per day from a current 100,000 bpd, according to oil minister Bijan Zanganeh.
The two governments signed 19 cooperation documents, and more memorandums of understanding were due to be signed by the private sector, Mr Rouhani said.
Talks also included discussions about the situation on the divided Korean peninsula amid fears that Pyongyang is preparing to conduct a fifth nuclear test.
“The security of the Korean peninsula and security of the Middle East are very important to us,” Mr Rouhani said.
“We seek peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and categorically oppose building any weapons of mass destruction.”
* Agence France-Presse and Associated Press
Updated: May 2, 2016 04:00 AM