Using bank funds freed from American sanctions, Iran has paid $16.2 million in delinquent dues owed to the United Nations, diplomats said Friday, a step that restored Iran’s suspended voting rights at the world body.
Iran’s restored ability to gain access to those funds, which had been impounded at a Korean bank under sanctions imposed by former President Donald J. Trump, was apparently a conciliatory gesture by the Biden administration, which wants to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran that Mr. Trump had scrapped.
The United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control must grant a license for such transactions under the American banking sanctions imposed on Iran. Asked for comment, the Treasury said in an emailed statement that the government “typically authorizes the payment of U.N. dues, including through O.F.A.C. general licenses and specific licenses.”
Under Article 19 of the United Nations Charter, a country that owes the previous two years’ worth of dues loses its vote in the General Assembly. Word that Iran was among the delinquent countries that had fallen into that category was disclosed last week by the office of Secretary General António Guterres.
Iran reacted furiously, calling its loss of voting rights “absurd” and blaming the arrears on its inability to gain access to money in foreign banks that had been frozen under the Trump-era sanctions. But Iranian officials also said at the time that negotiations were underway that would soon enable Iran to use money from an impounded South Korean bank account to pay the delinquent dues.
In a Twitter post on Friday, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, announced that the dues had been repaid and its voting rights restored. Farhan Haq, a spokesman for Mr. Guterres, confirmed that “the Islamic Republic of Iran has paid the minimum amount due and is no longer under Article 19 of the U.N. Charter.”
He declined to specify precisely how the money had been paid, “but certainly, this was helped by cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Korea and several different banks in making sure that we could get this transaction through.”
News that Iran had paid the dues with previously impounded money was the second signal in two days from the Biden administration in attempting to show some flexibility over the sanctions as the nuclear talks progress. On Thursday, the administration lifted sanctions on three former Iranian government officials and two Iranian companies involved in the country’s oil industry.
Talks aimed at bringing both Iran and the United States back into compliance with the nuclear agreement have been underway for weeks in Vienna, and diplomats have reported progress. The agreement was designed to curtail Iran’s capabilities to weaponize nuclear fuel and give it economic relief in return.
Iran began violating the accord’s terms after Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from participation in 2018, restoring sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors that the accord had lifted and imposing further economic constraints on Iran in hopes of forcing the country to accept much more restrictive terms.
Iranian officials have said they would return to compliance with the accord if the Biden administration first lifts the sanctions. Administration officials have said Iran must return to compliance first.
Some diplomats involved in the Vienna talks have expressed optimism that an agreement is near. But others have expressed skepticism about that possibility before Iran’s presidential elections next Friday.
A hard-line cleric who heads Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, an opponent of improved relations with the United States, is widely expected to be declared the winner, succeeding Hassan Rouhani, regarded as a moderate cleric who played a pivotal role in the 2015 nuclear accord.