The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, announced Sunday that a “temporary solution” would be found to allow the agency to continue inspections in Iran, despite Tehran beginning to reduce the work of international inspectors from Tuesday.
“What we have agreed on is something viable (…) It is worthwhile to bridge this gap that we are facing now, this saves the situation now,” Grossi told reporters upon his return from a visit to Tehran, where he held talks with officials there.
Iran’s conservative-dominated parliament passed a law in December requiring the government to suspend the additional protocol and expel agency inspectors if the United States does not lift its banking and oil sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The law is expected to take effect on Tuesday.
“This law is there, and this law will be implemented, which means that the additional protocol, unfortunately, will be suspended,” Grossi said. “Our work will be restricted, to face this matter. But we were able to maintain the necessary degree of monitoring and verification work,” he added, describing the new arrangements as a “temporary technical understanding.”
Grossi did not give precise details of the activities that the International Atomic Energy Agency will not be able to carry out, but he stressed that the number of inspectors in Iran will not be reduced and the sudden inspections will continue in light of the temporary understanding.
However, the new “understanding” will remain subject to continuous review and may be suspended at any time.
Grossi’s visit to Tehran came amid intense efforts being made between the administration of US President Joe Biden, European powers and Iran to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal, which was on the verge of collapse since former US President Donald Trump withdrew from it.
Grossi described Sunday’s agreement as a “good and logical result” after “very intense consultations” with Iranian officials.
Grossi was speaking after two days of continuous meetings in the Iranian capital, where he met with Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif and the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi.
Grossi said he had been contemplating his trip to Tehran “to secure stability for a highly unstable situation.” He added, “I think that this technical understanding achieves this so that it is possible to conduct political discussions at other levels, and most important of all avoids a situation in which we, in practical terms, may be walking without guidance.”
For its part, Iran announced that it had held “fruitful” discussions on Sunday with the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. “Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency have conducted fruitful discussions based on mutual respect, the results of which will be published this evening,” said Kazem Gharibabadi, Tehran’s ambassador to the Vienna-based agency, after attending the Salehi-Grossi meeting.
Iran has previously confirmed that implementing the Shura Council’s decision will not lead to a complete suspension of the work of the inspectors or their expulsion, a position that Zarif reaffirmed on Sunday, warning at the same time that Tehran will continue to reduce its obligations unless the other parties return to their obligations, especially lifting sanctions.
In an interview with the Iranian English-language Press TV, he said that Tehran would inform Grossi about respecting the rules and laws of our country which means implementing the parliament’s decision (…) and at the same time, not reaching a dead end so that he can implement the obligations to show that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful. “
The Director-General had previously confirmed that his visit aims to find “a mutually acceptable solution (…) so that the IAEA can continue its basic verification activities in Iran.”
“When they return to their commitments, we will.”
The Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and re-imposed harsh economic sanctions on Tehran.
A year later, Iran began to gradually backtrack on many of the core obligations in the agreement concluded in Vienna in 2015 between it and the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany.
The Biden administration expressed its willingness to return to the agreement, but stipulated the beginning of Iran’s return to its obligations. On the other hand, Tehran stresses the priority of lifting sanctions, stressing that it will return to its obligations in the event the United States does so.
Under a law passed by Iran’s Consultative Assembly in December, the Iranian government is required to suspend voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Treaty on the Limitation of Nuclear Weapons if Washington does not lift sanctions by February 21.
This will restrict some aspects of the activities of the agency’s inspectors, which have been informed by Tehran that the step will take effect on its 23rd.
Zarif indicated that among the new measures is “not providing (the agency) with camera recordings” in the facilities, explaining that the technical details will be discussed between the international and Iranian agencies. He stressed that his country’s actions do not constitute a breach of the agreement officially known as the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” He explained, “We do not violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we are implementing remedial steps noted in the action plan itself,” reiterating that Iran “has always said (…) when they return to their commitments, we will return.
The first deputy of Zarif Abbas Araghchi indicated on Saturday that the new step would reduce the agency’s ability to inspect “by 20 to 30 percent.”
No change with Biden
Zarif previously confirmed that the agreement allows Iran to backtrack on its obligations, in the event that others violate their obligations. And in his remarks Sunday, he said that “nothing has changed” since Biden took office in January, and that his administration is continuing the approach adopted by Trump.
Zarif warned that Iran has the right to withdraw from its obligations “completely or partially” if the others do not comply, adding, “We are still in the partial stage. We can be (in the) full stage.”
On Thursday, the Biden administration expressed its readiness to participate in talks sponsored by the European Union and with the participation of all parties to the agreement, to discuss possible ways to revive it.
Araghchi said that Tehran is studying the proposal, and “we are consulting with our friends and allies such as China and Russia,” considering that the lifting of sanctions is a matter that does not need to be negotiated.
The United States and European countries party to the agreement had previously warned Iran of the consequences of its next move. These countries called on Iran to assess “the consequences of such a dangerous measure.”
“The threat of nuclear proliferation still requires careful diplomacy and cooperation (…) That is why we said that we are ready to re-engage in negotiations with the 5 + 1 group on Iran’s nuclear program,” Biden told the Munich Security Conference.
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