Speaking to reporters in Vienna on Sunday after returning from Tehran, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi said his talks with Iranian officials produced a “good reasonable result” that “saves the situation at the moment ”.
“We have reached a temporary bilateral technical agreement whereby the agency will continue its necessary verification and monitoring activities for a period of up to three months,” Grossi said.
“We agreed that we were going to keep this agreement that we have come to constantly under review – so if we want to suspend or extend it, it can be done,” he added.
“The hope of the IAEA has been to be able to stabilize a situation that was very unstable and I think this technical understanding does, so that further political consultations at other levels can take place.”
– IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency (@iaeaorg) February 21, 2021
Grossi’s visit came ahead of the February 23 deadline set by the Iranian parliament for new US President Joe Biden to lift crippling sanctions imposed by his predecessor Donald Trump or Tehran would end inspections of IAEA.
The IAEA chief was careful to say that there would always be the same number of inspectors, but that there would be “things that we would lose”.
He didn’t give many details, but Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said earlier that this would involve blocking the IAEA from accessing images from its cameras at nuclear sites.
Grossi told reporters that the law passed by the Iranian parliament would be enforced, meaning that the additional protocol that allowed the IAEA to conduct rapid inspections would be suspended.
“Nonetheless, we have decided to go there and agree on a specific bilateral agreement … which will allow us to go through this period in the best possible way without losing the necessary control and verification capacities”, he said. .
Mike Hanna of Al Jazeera, of Washington, DC, said the announcement “would potentially give more time for a diplomatic process to start” between the United States and Iran.
For weeks, the two countries have been at an impasse over efforts to return to the 2015 nuclear deal that saw Iran agree to curb its nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions.
Tehran gradually reduced its commitments under the deal after Trump’s unilateral withdrawal in 2018.
Biden has said he wants to join the deal, but his administration has insisted that Iran return to full compliance first. Iranian officials have called on the United States to take the first step in joining the deal and lifting its sanctions.
Earlier on Sunday, Foreign Minister Zarif said Germany, France and the UK – the EU signatories to the agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA – should convince the United States to return to the agreement.
“It’s not a big challenge,” Zarif said in an interview with PressTV, an Iranian state corporation.
Also on Sunday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden was “ready to come to the table to discuss with the Iranians how we are recovering from the strict constraints on their nuclear program,” but the ball is in Iran’s court.
“It is Iran that is now diplomatically isolated, not the United States, and the ball is in their court,” Sullivan said in an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation.
Meanwhile, Ali Vaez, director of the Iran project at the International Crisis Group, welcomed the IAEA’s announcement on Sunday, saying the agency “has turned out to be the only adult in the room so far. “.
“Here is the hope that Iran and the United States learn to be so flexible and creative in achieving their common goal of relaunching the JCPOA,” he tweeted.
The @iaeaorg turned out to be the only adult in the room so far. Here is the hope that Iran and the United States learn to be so flexible and creative in achieving their common goal of relaunching the JCPOA. https://t.co/E6tSiN9wpc
– Ali Vaez | Ali Waaz (@liVaez) February 21, 2021
Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a think tank in Washington, DC, mentionned on Twitter, the IAEA agreement “provides an escape from a crisis” because it allows Iranian law to come into force without killing diplomatic efforts.
Parsi urged Iranian and US officials to make “only constructive public statements emphasizing the desire and need for a swift and fair diplomatic solution” in the future, however.