Russia says Iran’s deal with IAEA likely to be extended

May 11, 2021 - 16:39

TEHRAN – A top Russian diplomat at the Vienna nuclear talks has said that a February deal between Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog will “most likely” be extended.

Russian ambassador to the Vienna-based international organizations Mikhail Ulyanov told Laura Rozen that the deal has a good chance to be extended. 

“I think the February understandings most likely have a good chance to be extended,” he said, adding, “But, as of the moment, our task is different- we need to reach an agreement on restoration of JCPOA by 21 May.”

The Russian diplomat was referring to a February deal between Iran and the IAEA which allowed the latter to continue its monitoring activities in Iran ahead of the implementation of a parliamentary nuclear law obligating the Iranian government to strictly restrict cooperation with the IAEA in case the West failed to lift sanctions.

According to a joint statement issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the IAEA and AEOI 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.”

On Sunday, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi, who is leading Iran’s negotiating team in Vienna, said the deal may be extended.

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.

Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, announced Monday that extending Iran’s cooperation deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency is one of the country’s options a day after the top Iranian negotiator signaled a readiness to extend the deal.

Khatibzadeh elaborated on Araghchi’s comments, underlining that what Araghchi said was that the parliamentary nuclear law was binding and it will expire on May 30.

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 Iran nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran’s deal with the IAEA came a few days before the law came into force. 

Speaking at his Monday press conference, Khatibzadeh said, “What Dr. Araghchi said in the interview with NHK is that the law of the parliament is binding and the date of May 30 regarding the agreement between Iran and the IAEA is definitive.”

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, it will be made in Tehran.

At the same time that Araghchi hoped that the technical agreement would be extended, his American counterpart Wendy Sherman also expressed hope that this agreement would be extended.

“I am hopeful that we can reach an understanding so that the IAEA technical agreement that expires with Iran at the end of May can be extended,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told a meeting at the Atlantic Council on May 7, according to Rozen. “I’m hopeful that we make enough progress that it can stand as the Iranian election gets underway in June.”

Diplomats from Iran and the P4+1 group of countries as well as the U.S. are in Vienna to discuss the measures needed to be taken to bring Tehran and Washington back into full compliance with the JCPOA. The Iranian negotiating team held Monday a tripartite meeting with the three European signatories to the JCPOA – France, Germany and the UK- who act as intermediaries between Iran and the U.S. during the Vienna talks. 

Also, three expert-level working groups are examining the measures needed to get Iran and the U.S. back to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. 
In addition, the U.S. and Russian delegations held bilateral meetings to discuss developments related to the JCPOA. The Russian delegation also met with the European signatories to the JCPOA. 

“Met with Political Directors of France, Germany and U.K. who lead their respective delegations at the Vienna talks on full restoration of JCPOA. We had a constructive exchange of views on the current state of affairs and issues to be settled in order to achieve our common goal,” Ulyanov said on Twitter after meeting the Europeans.

As regards his discussions with the U.S delegation, the Russian diplomat said they were businesslike and useful.

“The Russian and the US delegations at the Vienna talks on JCPOA met again to exchange views on the progress made, as well as the way ahead. As always, the discussion was businesslike and useful,” Ulyanov tweeted. 

Almost all parties to the Vienna talks have said some progress has been made in the talks but they also have said the talks are coming up against some difficulties. 

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Khatibzadeh said, “The talks in Vienna have entered the phase of drafting texts in the field of sanctions lifting and nuclear measures. Besides, a third working group whose work is being pursued more calmly is working. It is wrestling with different details, and these fluidities and details do not allow us to make public announcements, because the talks are going on and reach a different conclusion every day.”

He also said that as part of its commitments, the United States has accepted much of what it ought to do. Khatibzadeh said there are also some sanctions that the U.S. is not willing to lift, but Iran has made it clear that these sanctions were imposed to destroy the JCPOA and prevent Iran from reaping benefits from the JCPOA and thus must be removed. 

“It is no secret that we have serious differences in this area. We are in talks with the Joint Commission of JCPOA and Tehran is examining this issue. Reports are reviewed in Tehran, and the positions are notified to the negotiating team every day, and they follow up,” he noted. 

There are disagreements between the U.S. and Iran over which sanctions should be removed. The U.S. wants to keep some sanctions in place to use them as leverage to expand talks beyond the JCPOA, something that Iran has vehemently rejected. The sanctions have been put into three baskets — green, yellow, and red, depending on how clearly they are inconsistent with the deal. Green will be lifted; yellow must be negotiated; and red will stay, according to The New York Times.