The head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, said on Sunday that after two days of talks with Iranian officials, he had negotiated a “temporary solution” so that the agency could continue its inspection work in the country and create room for diplomatic negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue.
However, he admitted that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), even under the new three-month deal, would not have the same level of access once a law goes into effect on Tuesday restricting some inspections.
Grossi’s visit to Iran came amid heightened efforts between the administration of US President Joe Biden, the European powers and Iran to save the 2015 nuclear deal, which was on the verge of collapse since Donald Trump pulled out, and sanctions against Iran imposed.
The conservatively dominated Iranian parliament passed the law in December, calling on the country to suspend some inspections if the US did not lift the sanctions by Sunday.
Iran had informed the UN body that if the sanctions were not lifted, “voluntary transparency measures” would be suspended – in particular inspection visits to non-nuclear sites, including military sites where there is suspicion of nuclear activity.
Grossi said that under the new “temporary technical understanding … there is less access, let’s face it”.
“Even so, we were able to maintain the required level of monitoring and verification work,” he added.
“What we have agreed is something that is feasible – it is useful to close this gap that we have now, it saves the situation now,” Grossi told reporters after landing in Vienna.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif signaled ahead of the meeting with Grossi that the Islamic Republic wanted to avoid a “dead end” in inspections, but also warned that it could move further away from its obligations if Washington does not lift the sanctions.
– “Remedial Actions” –
Grossi said his hope of going to Tehran is “to stabilize a situation that is very unstable”.
“I think this technical understanding means that other political discussions can take place at other levels, and most importantly, we can avoid a situation in which we would have flown virtually blind,” he added.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said late Saturday that “the IAEA’s inspection capacity will be reduced by around 20 to 30 percent after the implementation of the parliamentary law”.
Grossi declined to make his own estimate of how much the IAEA’s inspection capability would be reduced, but said the number of inspectors in the country would not be reduced and that the agency would continue to be able to conduct rapid inspections.
“We are not violating the JCPOA, we are implementing remedial measures that are foreseen in the JCPOA itself,” emphasized Zarif, referring to the nuclear agreement, which is known as a joint comprehensive action plan.
“Once everyone has done their part and done their commitments, there will be talks, and those talks will not be about changing or adding to the agreement.”
– ‘Still in partial phase’ –
Biden has pledged to resume talks on Tehran’s nuclear program, away from Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy on the Islamic Republic.
Tehran has repeatedly stated that it is ready to return to its nuclear commitments on condition that Washington takes the first step by lifting the sanctions that have economically torn Iran.
Zarif said that “nothing has changed” from an Iranian perspective, as the Biden government has so far followed the same Iran policy as its predecessor.
The Iranian top diplomat warned that if the US sanctions were not lifted, Iran would further reduce its obligations under the agreement reached in 2015 with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.
The supply of “enriched uranium will increase,” he said, stressing that Tehran has the right to suspend compliance “in whole or in part” if the other parties fail to comply with theirs.
“We are still in the partial phase,” said Zarif. “We can be total.”
The political director of the European Union, Enrique Mora, proposed an “informal meeting” via Twitter on Thursday, in which Iran was involved – and Washington agreed in principle.
Araghchi said Saturday that “we are considering (this) proposal” and Iran was discussing the issue with “friends and allies like China and Russia”.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)