Iran pledges to cooperate with UN atomic agency, easing nuclear talks threat4 min read . Updated: 12 Sep 2021, 06:25 PM IST
- Agreement comes after agency head made a last-minute trip to Tehran this weekend
Iran reached an agreement Sunday with the United Nations atomic agency that will grant international inspectors access to some of the country’s nuclear-related sites, a step likely to avert a crisis in the negotiations on restoring the 2015 nuclear deal.
The agreement comes after International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi made a last-minute trip to Tehran this weekend in a bid to persuade Iran to step up its cooperation with the agency ahead of a meeting of the IAEA’s top member states starting Monday.
The U.S., France, Britain and Germany had been discussing a formal censure motion against Iran next week if no agreement was reached, a step that Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raisi had said could scuttle the resumption of nuclear talks.
The nuclear talks started in April but were interrupted after Mr. Raisi was elected in June. The new president has so far refused to set a date for resuming the negotiations.
In a joint statement issued Sunday following talks between Mr. Grossi and the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, Iran agreed to allow the agency access to a range of nuclear sites to reset equipment installed by the agency to monitor Iran’s activities.
The IAEA had warned that some of the equipment could stop functioning in the coming days or weeks and Mr. Grossi has said that without it, the agency would be “flying blind" in ensuring that Iran wasn’t diverting nuclear material and equipment into a nuclear-weapons program.
The joint statement said Iran and the agency also agreed to hold senior level discussions in coming weeks aimed at boosting cooperation on other issues, which will likely include the agency’s probe of unreported nuclear material found in Iran that Iranian officials have repeatedly failed to explain.
Provided Iran follows through on the agreed terms, the U.S., France, Britain and Germany are now likely to shelve discussions of censuring Iran at an IAEA board meeting, diplomats said.
The State Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the agreement would scuttle efforts to censure Iran.
On Friday, the Biden administration’s Iran envoy, Robert Malley, met with his counterparts from France, Britain and Germany to discuss challenges facing the nuclear talks, including Iran’s standoff with the IAEA.
A decision not to censure Iran is likely to face criticism from opponents of the 2015 nuclear deal and others. Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called for “an appropriate and rapid international reaction" to Iran’s nuclear actions following the publication of two reports by the IAEA on Iran last week.
An IAEA board censure motion, which can be introduced by any member state, could have led to action by the U.N. Security Council, including potential sanctions. However, Russia’s public opposition to escalating the issue meant any follow-through from a censure resolution would likely be blocked.
“Issues between us and the agency are technical and political issues will have no place in the mutual relations," said Mohammad Eslami, head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, after Sunday’s meeting.
Mr. Grossi is scheduled to give a press conference Sunday evening in Vienna.
The 2015 nuclear agreement lifted most international sanctions on Iran in exchange for tight but temporary restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear activities. In May 2018, then-President Donald Trump pulled out of the accord and imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran. Beginning in the summer of 2019, Iran started progressively breaching the key restrictions in the accord.
In two confidential reports delivered to IAEA member states on Tuesday, the agency said that Iran had all but ceased serious discussions on an agency probe into several traces of uranium and other nuclear materials found in Iran since 2019. Like other members of the U.N.’s nuclear nonproliferation treaty, Iran has basic nonproliferation safeguard commitments to explain unreported nuclear material found in the country.
The nuclear traces are believed to be connected to nuclear-weapons work that the IAEA and Western governments say Iran did in the 1990s and at least until the early 2000s, although the agency wants to know what has happened to some of the nuclear material and equipment from that program. Iran denies it ever worked on nuclear weapons.
The IAEA also said that Iran hadn’t answered its requests to access the monitoring equipment at sites like uranium ore facilities and assembly halls for making the machines that enrich uranium, which are critical to Iran’s nuclear program.
The reports come as Iran has escalated its nuclear program, building up a stockpile of enriched uranium 10 times over the limits allowed in the 2015 accord, producing uranium metal, which can be used in the core of a nuclear weapon and restricting inspectors’ access to its sites.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that the window for completing the nuclear negotiations wouldn’t be permanently open and that at some point Iran’s nuclear advances would undercut the benefits of restoring the 2015 deal.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text
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