Rafael Grossi on March 2, before a trip to Tehran to resolve IAEA's dispute with Iran

Rafael Grossi on March 2, before a trip to Tehran to resolve IAEA's dispute with Iran

Iran News Agency Cagey Over EU ‘New Concession’ In Nuclear Talks

Friday, 08/12/2022

The official Iranian news agency IRNA suggested Friday Iran would accept European proposals to revive the 2015 nuclear deal only on several conditions.

IRNA quoted “an Iranian diplomat familiar with the process of negotiations” that a text circulated by Enrique Mora, the European Union coordinator of 14-month nuclear talks, would be “acceptable” if Iran had “confidence in various issues, including political claims related to security, sanctions, and guarantees.”

The IRNA story referred to a story published in the Wall Street Journal “a few hours ago” Friday reporting that the text, which the Journal had seen, had offered “a significant new concession to Tehran” over a probe into uranium traces found in Iran in 2019 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

According to the Journal, the Mora text suggests Iran would need to agree to address the IAEA concerns over the uranium traces before the revival of the 2015 nuclear agreement, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

While the IRNA story says other issues remain to be resolved – including ‘guarantees’ Iran has sought that the United States honor a revived agreement – it has been widely reported in recent weeks that the IAEA probe, which relates to work Iran carried out before 2003, is a major obstacle.

‘Settled and closed’

IRNA quoted a tweet from a senior official in the presidential office repeating the insistence of President Ebrahim Raisi, made in conversations with the presidents of France, Russia and China, that Iran would not agree to JCPOA restoration without “security claims…settled and closed.”

The US, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have all argued the IAEA probe, under the agency’s review of Iran’s ‘safeguards’ commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is unrelated to the JCPOA. But while the Journal’s account says the Mora draft envisages Iran having to satisfy the agency before a renewed JCPOA took effect, it says “other parties in the talks” would then “urge the IAEA Board of member states to close the investigation.”

In 2015, shortly after the JCPOA was agreed by Iran and six world powers, the IAEA published a report, Final Assessment on Past and Present Outstanding Issues Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Programme [sic]. The report both assessed Iran’s pre-2003 work and welcomed the JCPOA, which gave the agency wide powers of inspection that Iran withdrew in 2021 after it began breaching the JCPOA in 2019, the year after the US left the agreement and imposed stringent sanctions.

Uranium traces

The 35-member IAEA board in June passed a resolution, moved by the US and three European states, critical of Iran over its explanations of the uranium traces, which were found by inspectors in 2019 following allegations made by Israel. But while the Journal raised the prospect of the board referring Iran to the United Nations Security Council should it fail to satisfy the IAEA probe, it did not mention Russia and China, who have UNSC vetoes, voting against the June resolution in the IAEA board.

The IRNA story reiterated that Iran continues to review the Mora document. While EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described it as a “final text,” Iranian officials have said the document is being studied by technical experts before any ‘political’ decision is taken.

The Wall Street Journal quoted a “senior US official” that Washington expected “Iran to provide the agency the information they need… regardless of whether it’s expressed in the text of an understanding or elsewhere.” Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s IAEA ambassador, said in comments published Friday in Izvestia, that with Iran questioning “literally a few lines” he expected the fate of the JCPOA to become clear next week.

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