0351 GMT November 30, 2022
The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) held talks with the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on Monday on the sidelines of the IAEA annual conference, suggesting that Tehran still believes in dialogue to resolve disputes.
The IAEA's accusations against Iran's peaceful nuclear program in recent months have created a dispute which has negatively affected the talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal – JCPOA – between Iran and world powers.
In its report, the agency has raised an old case related to the alleged discovery of nuclear particles in several sites in Iran based on intelligence provided by Israel. Tehran believes the case was closed once in 2015 under the JCPOA and the IAEA brought up it under the pressure of certain parties in a politically-motivated and non-technical move.
“The agency has made efforts to engage with Iran to resolve outstanding issues related to the presence of uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at three undeclared locations in Iran. Since June, Iran has not engaged with the agency. Consequently, these issues have not been resolved and the agency is not in a position to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful,” IAEA head Rafael Grossi said on Monday, addressing the Sixty-Sixth Regular Session of the IAEA General Conference.
AEOI chief Mohammed Eslami rejected Grossi’s claims as fake, saying that that the alleged sites are not nuclear facilities and belong to ordinary people.
Addressing the IAEA at the same conference, Eslami said the Islamic Republic expects the UN nuclear watchdog to be professional, impartial and independent in its activities, including reporting, inspections and verification.
“Iran expects the IAEA to respect its own credit and does not allow certain elements to bring up obsolete accusations, whose case was closed in 2015, by resorting to various excuses,” Iran’s nuclear chief said.
He noted that Iran has always been ready for negotiations and constructive interaction, emphasizing that Tehran would roll back its current remedial nuclear measures, including those related to surveillance equipment beyond the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and a robust verification system, only if US sanctions are removed and no baseless accusations are leveled against the country's nuclear program.
Later in the day, Grossi and Eslami met. Although the details of their talks were not published, Grossi posted a video of the meeting and said: Talks with Iran regarding the clarification of the remaining safeguards issues have been resumed.
In New York, Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian emphasized Tehran will continue its cooperation with the agency, provided that the IAEA focuses on its technical responsibility and not on political action.
“The agency has questions about three alleged sites that they say they have found uranium, and we are ready to provide answers to those questions,” Amir-Abdollahian told Al-Monitor on Sunday evening. “At the same time, the agency needs to behave and act technically,” rather than politically, he added.
“After all parties return to the JCPOA…, we have to grant all access to the agency. And by that I mean, access that goes beyond safeguards. This is quite natural that these current, baseless allegations against Iran that have been put on the agenda of the agency need to be removed first,” he added.
“But believe and accept that in order to do so, there has to be some technical work. But parallel to that, just like in the year 2015, there needs to be a political will to close the case of these allegations,” the top diplomat pointed out.
Tehran has shown its willpower and necessary flexibility to resolve the remaining disputes to revitalize the JCPOA, as it has chosen the path of dialogue to resolve the IAEA dispute. But on the other side of the field, such a will is not seen on the part of America whose Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told CBS that no deal can be reached anytime soon.
But his Iranian counterpart said: “The United States has not come to the point where it is ready to be brave enough to make a decision.”
Amir-Abdollahian said Iran received a message from the Americans for direct talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
“We are not afraid of having face-to-face talks with the United States. But we should feel that it is going to be a game changer. That there is going to be some kind of gain for us, some kind of benefit for us”, he said.
Amir-Abdollahian did not necessarily see a need for a new round of EU-facilitated indirect negotiations, but said: “If the American side feels that there needs to be another round of talks done by the coordinators, I mean, [EU foreign policy chief] Josep Borrell and the EU, then we are not going to reject that.”