Iran, IAEA agree to extend inspection agreement by one month as Vienna talks on JCPOA continue

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), speaks during a press conference at the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on May 24, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have agreed to extend by one month the agreement they had clinched for the UN nuclear agency to continue inspection of the country's nuclear sites while the ongoing talks in Vienna on the revival of a landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers continue.

The announcement was made by Iran’s representative to the international organizations in Vienna, Kazem Gharibabadi, in an interview with reporters, as well as by the IAEA’s Director General Rafael Grossi, through a press conference in the Austrian capital, on Monday.

The Iranian diplomat recommended the negotiating sides in Vienna to seize the opportunity, which has been created as a result of Iran's goodwill to remove all the sanctions against Tehran in a practical and verifiable way.

Later in the day, Gharibabadi, posted two tweets, giving more information on Iran's decision to continue recording data for "utmost one more month."

"Iran's decision on the continuation of the data-recording for utmost one more month was informed today to @rafaelmgrossi the Director General of the IAEA," he said in one tweet.

He then emphasized that the data recorded over the past three months, will be kept at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).

"The pre-recorded data of the past 3 months will still be kept at the AEOI (IRAN). We recommend the negotiating countries to seize the extra opportunity provided by Iran in good faith for the complete lifting of sanctions in a practical and verifiable manner," the Iranian diplomat said in another tweet.

 

Under former president Donald Trump, the US withdrew from the landmark nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was signed by Iran and major world powers in 2015. Trump also initiated a “maximum pressure” policy against Iran, prompting Tehran to take remedial measures by gradually reducing its nuclear commitments under the deal.

In February, Iran halted its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol that allowed the IAEA to carry short-notice inspections at its nuclear sites. 

Later in February, Iran and the IAEA reached a technical understanding under which Iran continued to keep the camera footage at its nuclear sites for up to three months in a goodwill gesture in support of diplomacy, waiting to see whether the other parties to the JCPOA can manage to bring the US back into full compliance with the deal.

That deadline came to an end this week, while negotiations are underway in Vienna between Tehran and the P4+1 group of countries to revive the JCPOA and bring Washington into compliance with the deal.

Speaking at a news conference, Grossi said, "The equipment and the verification and the monitoring activities that we agreed will continue as they are now for one month expiring on June 24th, 2021."

In addition to the deal's extension, Iran has also agreed not to erase information collected so far by agency equipment in the country, he added.

The IAEA chief said the outcome of this "long discussion" was "important" but the situation was "not ideal."

"We should all be reminded that the temporary understanding is a sort of stop-gap measure. It is to avoid flying completely blind," Grossi added.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that the US has a "legal and moral obligation" to remove its sanctions on Tehran, turning the tables on Washington after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanded that the Islamic Republic "come back into compliance on the nuclear side".

Iran's top security authority confirms extension of IAEA agreement

Meanwhile, Iran’s top security authority, the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), issued a statement confirming the one-month extension of the previous agreement with the IAEA.

Noting that the previous agreement with the UN nuclear watchdog expires today, the council said that in line with a law passed by Iran’s parliament last December, dubbed the “Strategic Action Plan to Lift Sanctions and Safeguard Interests of Iranian People,” Iran will continue the halt on the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

However, the SNSC added, “Given the fact that technical talks for the resolution of the Safeguards issues continue between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency in parallel to Vienna talks [on the revival of the JCPOA],” Iran should “continue to keep the data recorded by the IAEA cameras for another month” starting from May 24, “so as to provide the necessary opportunity for the progress and fruition of those talks.”

Russia: Iran's decision to extend agreement with IAEA 'commendable step'

Meanwhile, Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian ambassador to the international organizations in Vienna, welcomed Iran's decision as a "commendable step" which would pave the way for diplomatic efforts in Vienna to restore the JCPOA.

"Breaking News! #Iran extended temporary understandings with #IAEA on verification for one month. Commendable step. It will help maintain businesslike atmosphere at the Vienna talks on #JCPOA and facilitate a successful outcome of the diplomatic efforts to restore the nuclear deal," he said in a tweet.


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