Parliament speaker says IAEA access to nuclear facilities should be cut off

May 23, 2021 - 19:56

TEHRAN – Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said on Sunday that the three-month deal between Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog has expired and that the government should restrict the watchdog’s access to Iran’s nuclear facilities. 

Speaking at a Majlis open session on Sunday, the speaker said the International Atomic Energy Agency has no right to have access to the data of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran’s cameras. 

Qalibaf was responding to the remarks by Ali Reza Salimi, a member of the Majlis presiding board. 

Salimi said, “The International Atomic Energy Agency had three months to fulfill its obligations, but this did not happen and their legal opportunity expired yesterday.”

Salimi also said that the Majlis should make sure that a nuclear law passed by the Majlis would be implemented.

The lawmaker also asked Qalibaf to instruct the AEOI to delete the data stored by its cameras. 

Responding to Salimi, Qalibaf said, “We are determined that the strategic action act (the parliamentary nuclear law) to lift sanctions and protect the rights of the Iranian people be implemented at specific times and in accordance with the legislation, and the Leader has repeatedly emphasized this issue.”

He added, “The Agency's three-month deadline was until May 22, and according to this, the International Atomic Energy Agency does not have the right to access the images and information of the Atomic Energy Organization, and this was discussed and decided yesterday.”

Iran and the IAEA reached a temporary deal allowing the Agency to continue its monitoring of Iran’s nuclear facilities. 

The deal was reached during a two-day visit by IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi to Iran. During the visit, Grossi met with Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The AEOI issued a joint statement outlining the content of the understanding moments after Grossi concluded his visit to Iran.

“The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency recalled and reaffirmed the spirit of cooperation and enhanced mutual trust that led to the Joint Statement in Tehran on 26 August 2020, and the importance of continuing that cooperation and trust,” the statement said. “The AEOI informed the IAEA that in order to comply with the act passed by the Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran called ‘Strategic Action to Cease Actions and Protect the Interest of Iranian Nation’ Iran will stop the implementation of the voluntary measures as envisaged in the JCPOA, as of 23 February 2021.”

The statement added, “In view of the above and in order for the Agency to continue its verification and monitoring activities, the AEOI and the IAEA agreed: 1. That Iran continues to implement fully and without limitation its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA as before. 2. To a temporary bilateral technical understanding, compatible with the Law, whereby the IAEA will continue with its necessary verification and monitoring activities for up to 3 months (as per technical annex). 3. To keep the technical understanding under regular review to ensure it continues to achieve its purposes.”

The February deal was mainly designed to give nuclear talks more time to see if there is a possibility to reach a deal on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal before a parliamentary nuclear law goes into effect. 

The nuclear law stipulates that the Iranian government should take certain nuclear measures such as raising the level of uranium enrichment to 20% and suspending the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol if the Western parties failed to honor their obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran’s deal with the IAEA came a few days before the nuclear law came into force.

Under the February deal, Iran and the IAEA agreed that the Agency would not have access to the data of the cameras it placed in the Iranian nuclear facilities and Iran will store the data for three months. If the West failed to reach a deal with Iran within this period Iran will permanently delete the data.

The February deal expired on Friday, but no announcements were made by Iran and the IAEA on the fate of the deal. 

Two weeks ago, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi, who leads the Iranian negotiating team in Vienna, hinted at the possibility of extending the deal without giving specific details. 

He told Japanese broadcaster NHK that Iran hopes enough progress will be made so that there will be no need for an extension. But he said that if needed, Iran will consider an extension at a proper time.

A day later, Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, announced that extending Iran’s cooperation deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency is one of the country’s options.

Khatibzadeh elaborated on Araghchi’s comments, underlining that what Araghchi said was that the parliamentary nuclear law was binding.

The spokesman said Iran is not in a hurry to reach a conclusion in the Vienna talks but at the same time it seeks to prevent them from becoming draining.

“We do not want any date to prevent Tehran’s executive instructions from being strictly implemented for the negotiating team,” he pointed out. “In this interview, Dr. Araghchi pointed to only one of the choices for the date of May 21. If the talks are on the right track, with the coordination of both parties and Tehran’s approval, this date can be extended.”

Khatibzadeh said the decision regarding the extension of the February deal will not be made by the Iranian negotiating team. Instead, he said, it will be made in Tehran.

“The policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the technical talks in Vienna is quite clear, the negotiating team acts within the framework of the high policies of the establishment and the executive instructions of Tehran, and sends reports to the relevant authorities on a daily basis,” he continued.

Araghchi has just returned to Iran after concluding the fourth round of the Vienna talks, which are aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal. The last meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission was held on Wednesday. After the meeting, Araghchi said good progress was made during the talks but they needed to return to capitals in order to make some final decisions.

“After two weeks of negotiations, we will have a meeting to conclude, and then the delegations will return to the capitals for consultations,” Araghchi told Iran’s state media.

He added, “There are a few key issues that need further review and decision-making in the capitals, and we hope that they will take place in the next few days and that we will be able to conclude on these issues in the next round of talks.”

According to Araghchi, intensive talks and meetings were held at all levels.  He said that Iran and its negotiating partners had bilateral and multilateral talks at expert and political levels. “During these discussions, we tried to reach a conclusion on the issues at stake, either to resolve the differences or to decrease them, and the result is that we are in a position where we can have a general conclusion,” he pointed out.

He continued, “There are some key issues that need to be resolved and there is agreement on the rest; the texts have been well written and so now is the time to go back to the capitals and have the final consultations and then continue the negotiations.”


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