IAEA plans ‘technical’ meeting with Iran in April
Iran’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna warned of efforts to abuse the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA) as a “bargaining chip”, saying such moves would undermine the existing goodwill between Iran and the IAEA.
“In view of the ongoing and constructive cooperation between Iran and the agency, any politically motivated move and abusing the agency for political bargaining chip and misleading it is absolutely destructive,” Kazem Gharibabadi said in a statement to the IAEA Board of Governors on Thursday.
In similar remarks on Monday, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said the issue surrounding the IAEA’s nuclear inspections in Iran should not be used as a “bargaining chip” in any talks on the 2015 nuclear agreement, Press TV wrote.
“The inspection work of the IAEA must be preserved... [It] should not be put in the middle of a negotiating table as a bargaining chip,” he said.
Gharibabadi said any politically motivated move is also immensely counterproductive with regard to the already existing goodwill and mutual trust between the agency and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The remarks came after the IAEA Board of Governors dropped its decision to adopt an anti-Iran resolution over Iran’s reduction of its nuclear commitments under Iran’s landmark nuclear agreement with world powers in response to the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the deal, also known as the JCPOA.
The US-backed draft resolution that voiced “serious concern” about Iran’s reduced cooperation with the IAEA was scrapped in a bid to make room for diplomacy. Britain, France and Germany – the three European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal – had lobbied for the IAEA Board of Governors to adopt the resolution, but they were faced with a strong backlash from Iran.
Ahead of the meeting, President Hassan Rouhani said that the IAEA is “no place for political games”.
“The IAEA is a technical body,” Rouhani said, adding that the nuclear watchdog should be allowed “to proceed with its own technical job in order for the recent good agreement between Iran and the agency to remain on track”.
Rouhani said Tehran and the IAEA have had good cooperation as confirmed by the agency’s reports, advising – France, Britain and Germany – to avoid attempts that would harm the “very good relations” between the two sides.
“In this context, we welcome the prudence and vigilance shown by all members of the agency, especially the members of the Board of Governors and the director general in their efforts to prevent the unnecessary tension and maintaining the already existing opportunity for diplomacy,” Gharibabadi said.
Former US president Donald Trump withdrew the US from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018 and imposed what he called the “maximum pressure” policy on Tehran. In response, Iran gradually reduced its nuclear obligations under the accord starting on May 8, 2019, but declared that its measures will be reversed as soon as the US honors its JCPOA commitments.
As part of its commitment reduction process, Iran halted last month its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol that allowed the IAEA to carry out short-notice inspections at its nuclear facilities, prompting Grossi to visit Tehran to discuss the issue. During his visit, Tehran and the IAEA reached a technical understanding that was embraced by both sides.
Gharibabadi explained that under the technical understanding, Iran will keep the records of the data at some of its nuclear facilities for up to three months, so as to be able to provide the IAEA with the data if the US sanctions are lifted by then. “Otherwise all collected data will be erased at the end of the third month,” he added.
If the sanctions are all removed at once, the envoy reaffirmed, “we are ready to come back to full implementation at once”.
He also said it was not Iran that left the negotiations table of the Joint Commission of the JCPOA and it was upon those who want to rejoin the negotiating table to take proper practical steps to earn a seat at the table.
After the meeting, Gharibabadi said that wisdom ultimately prevailed at the IAEA Board of Governors.
“As a result of extensive diplomatic efforts, the process of adopting an anti-Iran resolution at the Board of Governors was halted,” he told reporters.
The ambassador then enumerated four reasons why the European troika gave up the resolution.
“The first reason was unwillingness of the Board of Governors’ members to adopt this resolution as they considered it to be counterproductive under the current conditions. The second reason was the concern on the part of the three European countries about Iran’s possible reaction to the adoption of the resolution. The third reason was lack of technical justification for this resolution after the director general’s remarks about the need to continue talks with Iran. And the fourth reason was concern about serious backlash that the resolution could have produced as a result of undermining the ground for further cooperation.”
Gharibabadi also thanked China and Russia for their principled stances on the resolution, urging the three European countries and the United States to take advantage of the existing diplomatic opportunities to return to effective and complete fulfillment of their commitments under the JCPOA and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231.
“Iran will answer good will with good will,” the ambassador said.
Real chance for diplomacy
Russia’s Permanent Representative to the international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, commended the three European countries for dropping the adoption of the controversial resolution.
“Wisdom prevailed,” Ulyanov said via Twitter. “The resolution could have led to uncontrolled escalation. Now diplomacy has a real chance to succeed.”
Grossi said on Thursday that the IAEA plans to start a “technical” dialog with Iran aimed at advancing the process of obtaining explanations on outstanding issues such as uranium particles that were allegedly found at old, undeclared sites.
“I’m ... aiming at having a far more clear understanding of this issue by the summer or before,” he told a news conference.
He added that the first meeting would be in Iran in early April and he hoped to report back to the IAEA board on progress by June.
“This week, I raised the issue again with colleagues in Tehran and here with the permanent mission and finally, we were able to have an understanding and we are going to be starting this process of focused analyses of the situation with a technical meeting which will take place in Iran at the beginning of April," he said.