IranMiddle East

Tehran hails ‘constructive’ co-op with IAEA, warns of efforts to exploit watchdog as ‘bargaining chip’

Iran’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna has warned of efforts to abuse the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA) as a “bargaining chip”, saying such moves would undermine the existing goodwill between Iran and the IAEA.

“In view of the ongoing and constructive cooperation between Iran and the Agency, any politically motivated move and abusing the Agency for political bargaining chip and misleading it is absolutely destructive,” Kazem Gharibabadi said in a statement to the IAEA Board of Governors on Thursday.

In similar remarks on Monday, IAEA Director General Rafael said the issue surrounding the IAEA’s nuclear inspections in Iran should not be used as a “bargaining chip” in any talks on the 2015 nuclear agreement.

“The inspection work of the IAEA must be preserved… [It] should not be put in the middle of a negotiating table as a bargaining chip,” he said.

Gharibabadi said any politically motivated move is also immensely counterproductive with regard to the already existing goodwill and mutual trust between the Agency and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The remarks came after the IAEA Board of Governors dropped its decision to adopt an anti-Iran resolution over Iran’s reduction of its nuclear commitments under Iran’s landmark nuclear agreement with world powers in response to the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the deal, also known as the JCPOA.

The US-backed draft resolution that voiced “serious concern” about Iran’s reduced cooperation with the IAEA was scrapped in a bid to make room for diplomacy. Britain, France and Germany had lobbied for the IAEA Board of Governors to adopt the resolution, but they were faced with a strong backlash from Iran.

“In this context, we welcome the prudence and vigilance shown by all members of the Agency, especially the members of the Board of Governors and the director general in their efforts to prevent the unnecessary tension and maintaining the already existing opportunity for diplomacy,” Gharibabadi said.

Former US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018 and imposed what he called the “maximum pressure” policy on Tehran. In response, Iran gradually reduced its nuclear obligations under the accord starting on May 8, 2019, but declared that its measures will be reversed as soon as the US honors its JCPOA commitments.

As part of its commitment reduction process, Iran halted last month its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol that allowed the IAEA to carry out short-notice inspections at its nuclear facilities, prompting Grossi to visit Tehran to discuss the issue. During his visit, Tehran and the IAEA reached a technical understanding that was embraced by both sides.

Gharibabadi explained that under the technical understanding, Iran will keep the records of the data at some of its nuclear facilities for up to three months, so as to be able to provide the IAEA with the data if the US sanctions are lifted by then. “Otherwise all collected data will be erased at the end of the third month,” he added.

Elsewhere in his statement, the Iranian envoy said while the previous US administration failed in pursuing the maximum pressure policy, the new US administration has yet to take practical measures to change course.

“As our Supreme Leader declared, we will look at the other participants’ deeds not words, and after corroboration of their actions we will also act accordingly and proportionally,” Gharibabadi said.

If the sanctions are all removed at once, the envoy reaffirmed, “we are ready to come back to full implementation at once.”

He also said it was not Iran that left the negotiating table of the Joint Commission of the JCPOA and it is upon those who want to rejoin the negotiating table to take proper practical steps to earn a seat at the table.

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