IAEA chief visits Iran as Vienna talks reach critical point

March 4, 2022 - 20:19

TEHRAN – Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is expected to pay a visit to Tehran on Saturday amid reports of an imminent deal in Vienna, where Iran and world powers are putting the final touches on how to revive a 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The visit of the chief of the United Nations nuclear watchdog is likely to remove the remaining obstacle to reaching a deal in Vienna. 

Grossi was to head to Tehran late on Friday and have a meeting with Mohammad Eslami, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), on the following day. 

The visit comes against a backdrop of a highly charged atmosphere in Vienna. The talks there have been moving ahead slowly in the last few weeks. Despite significant progress, the negotiating parties have been unable to conclude and announce a deal. And over the past few days, there have been a lot of projections that the deal could be announced at any moment. 

The anticipations about the deal were mainly propagated by Western media, which Iran advised to avoid disseminating “premature good news.”

“Vienna Talks still continue. Premature good news does not substitute good agreement,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh on Twitter. 

Khatibzadeh reiterated the position Iranian officials have been adopting over the course of the talks is that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed upon. 

“Nobody can say the deal is done, until all the outstanding remaining issues are resolved. Extra efforts needed. Everybody is now focused on the final critical steps,” the spokesman added.

There are a number of “outstanding” issues in the talks that need to be addressed if a deal is to be reached. One such issue is IAEA’s allegations about Iran’s past nuclear activities. Iran has said the allegations are politically motivated and thus should be ended before a deal is made in Vienna. 

The visit of Grossi is an important opportunity for Iran and the IAEA to reach a sort of agreement on safeguards issues, among other things. 

Nour News, a website close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said the aim of Grossi’s visit is probably to reach a “joint roadmap” for resolving safeguards issues that are raised between Iran and the IAEA. The website said these issues have been one of the most important reasons why Vienna talks are progressing slowly.

But things are beginning to fall into place for agreement in Vienna given the positive trend of cooperation between Iran and the IAEA. According to Nour News, over the past ten days, there have been “very difficult and challenging” negotiations between Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog. And in recent days, these negotiations facilitated the continuation of understandings between the two sides. 

These understandings are expected to be completed during Grossi’s visit. If Grossi succeeds in drawing up a joint roadmap for resolving the remaining safeguards issues, Nour News said, one can hope that one of the important obstacles to reaching an agreement in Vienna would be removed. 

As things stand, deal in Vienna is in the cards. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian has said his country is ready for finalizing a good and immediate deal. On the other side, the European Union has said that Iran's demands at the talks have been met.

“We believe that Iran’s demands have been mostly met in the future agreement,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told the Iranian foreign minister in a phone conversation on Friday.

Therefore, the visit of Grossi will highly likely facilitate the deal in Vienna in terms of removing the remaining issues between Iran and the IAEA which have prevented the deal so far.

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