China Daily (Hong Kong)
IAEA understanding with Teheran buys more time for revival of key pact
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (left) meets with International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi (right) in Teheran, Iran, on Sunday. They exchanged views on Iran-IAEA cooperation in line with the Safeguards Agreement during the meeting.
VIENNA — The International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, has reached a temporary understanding with Iran to salvage a landmark nuclear deal, its chief said on Sunday.
Iran will stop implementation of the voluntary measures envisaged in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, as of Tuesday, to comply with a law passed by its parliament, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told reporters after a visit to Teheran.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday that Grossi’s visit “resulted in a very significant diplomatic achievement and a very significant technical achievement”.
The IAEA will continue with its essential verification and monitoring activities for up to three months, according to a temporary bilateral technical understanding reached between the two sides, Grossi said.
He said the temporary agreement allows other political discussions at other levels to take place and helps “avoid a situation in which we would have been, in practical terms, flying blind”.
Iran’s parliament approved in December a law mandating the Iranian government to relaunch 20-percent uranium enrichment, then stop implementing the IAEA’s additional protocol if sanctions on Iran that should be lifted under the JCPOA continue to be in place.
Grossi’s visit to Teheran came amid stepped-up efforts between US President Joe Biden’s administration, European powers and Iran to salvage the 2015 deal that has been on the brink of collapse since thenUS president Donald Trump withdrew the US from it and went on to impose sanctions on the nation.
Teheran had notified the UN body that if the suspensions were lifted, it would suspend “voluntary transparency measures” — notably inspections to non-nuclear sites.
“There is less access, let’s face it. But still we were able to retain the necessary degree of monitoring and verification work,” Grossi told reporters.
No ‘flying blind’
Under the temporary agreement, Teheran will for “three months record and keep the information of some activities and monitoring equipment”, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, or IAEO, said in a statement.
“During this period, the IAEA will not have access to this information,” it said. “If the sanctions are completely lifted within three months, Iran will provide this information to the IAEA, otherwise the information will be deleted forever,” the statement added.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif signaled the Islamic republic wanted to avoid an “impasse” over inspections, but also warned it could further step away from its commitments if Washington does not lift sanctions.
Grossi had said earlier his hope in visiting Teheran was “to stabilize a situation which was very unstable”.
Grossi on Sunday declined to give his own estimate of how much the IAEA’s inspection capability would be reduced but said the number of inspectors would not be scaled down, and the agency would still be able to carry out some snap probes.
Zarif said Biden has rejected his predecessor’s Iran policy of “maximum pressure” only in words, but in practice he is following the same course of action so far.
Teheran has repeatedly said it is ready to return to its nuclear commitments, on the condition Washington makes the first move by lifting the sanctions that have heaped economic pain on Iran.
But Zarif warned that if sanctions were not lifted, his nation would continue scaling back its commitments under the 2015 deal with the five UN Security Council permanent members and Germany.
The stockpile of “enriched uranium will increase”, he said, stressing that Teheran had the right within the agreement to stop observing commitments “totally or partially” if the other parties fail to honor theirs.
“We are still in the partial phase,” Zarif said. “We can be total.”
The European Union’s political director Enrique Mora has proposed an “informal meeting” involving Iran, with Washington accepting in principle.
Separately, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of neighboring Turkey, said on Sunday there was a “window of opportunity” for the lifting of Iran sanctions, calling it “legal and logical”.