Iran's Foreign Ministry on Monday said that Tehran does not intend to expel the UN nuclear watchdog's inspectors, clarifying the implications of a law approved by Parliament last month.
The law, passed by the legislature despite opposition from the government of President Hassan Rouhani, mandates Iran to discontinue certain inspections by late February if key conditions are not met.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that under the December 2020 law "Iran's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency will not cease and it does not mean expelling its inspectors", AFP reported.
The law demands the government to stop the implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on February 21, if the US does not lift unilateral sanctions or other parties to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran – the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia – do not help the Islamic Republic to bypass those sanctions.
The Additional Protocol is a document prescribing intrusive inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities.
At present, such inspections are carried out under the protocol, in addition to regular IAEA inspections under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but the Additional Protocol has not been ratified by Iran's Parliament.
Khatibzadeh said if the European parties to the deal do not honor their commitments under UN Security Council Resolution 2231, Iran must naturally stop the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safeguards inspections and implementation of the Additional Protocol, Press TV wrote.
He warned the European parties to the deal that this is their “last chance to return to honoring their commitments and salvage the JCPOA.”
“The Americans should also know that we will implement the Parliament’s law word by word,” the spokesman added.
The law, among other things, required the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to produce at least 120 kg of 20-percent enriched uranium annually and start the installation, gas injection, enrichment and storage of nuclear materials up to an appropriate enrichment degree within a period of three months using at least 1,000 IR-2m centrifuges.
A month later, Tehran announced the beginning of the process to enrich uranium to 20 percent purity at its Fordo nuclear facility.
“Whenever the other side rectifies its steps, we will reverse our measures as well, including the 20 percent enrichment,” Khatibzadeh said.
President Rouhani came out against the December legislation – known as the “strategic action plan for the lifting of sanctions and the protection of the Iranian people's interests" – saying it was "detrimental to the course of diplomatic activities" when it was still before Parliament.
Former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew Washington from the 2015 multilateral nuclear accord and reimposed sanctions on Tehran in 2018.
Since 2019, Iran in response has retreated from most of its key nuclear commitments under the 2015 deal, which gave the Islamic Republic relief from international sanctions in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.
US President Joe Biden, who took office on January 20, has expressed willingness to rejoin the deal and return to diplomacy with Iran.
Nothing new has occurred
Khatibzadeh also said that nothing new has happened with regard to the nuclear agreement.
“We haven’t seen any new development regarding the JCPOA,” he said.
He said Iran has made it clear that the US should first lift the sanctions before Iran returns to full compliance with the accord.
Khatibzadeh underlined that as long as sanctions are in place, nothing would happen on Iran’s side.
“Naturally, as stated before, Iran’s reduction [of its commitments] is reversible if the other side honors its obligations and the conditions are restored to the pre-JCPOA withdrawal era,” he said. “We’ve heard a lot of talk, but now it is time to act.”
The spokesman emphasized that a return to the JCPOA should be done “responsibly.”
“That a government whimsically decides to exit an agreement endorsed by a UN Security Council resolution and then decides to re-enter it is not feasible,” he said, noting that Iran’s stance, unlike that of the United States, is based on legal grounds.
He further said the US cannot do whatever it wants and then return to the previous conditions, suggesting that the US should make up for the damage inflicted upon Iran by its illegal withdrawal from the JCPOA and its subsequent sanctions.
In reference to the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), a financial mechanism proposed by Europeans to circumvent US sanctions, Khatibzadeh suggested that the mechanism has failed to meet its purpose.
“INSTEX was created to neutralize unilateral, extraterritorial and illegal US sanctions, not to conduct limited exchanges in some areas under the sanctions,” he said.
Reacting to recent remarks by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who blamed Iran for INSTEX’s failure to be effective, Khatibzadeh said the comments were intended to divert attention from their failure to fulfill their obligations.
“Some of the parties in the JCPOA think that history can be erased with their remarks or that Iran will forget their commitments,” he said.