Iran, IAEA agree to continue dialogue ahead of Vienna talks

UN’s nuclear agency chief and Tehran official agree to keep talking but did not provide details about outstanding issues.

Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi, right, speaks with deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Behrouz Kamalvandi
Director-General of International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi, (right), speaks with Deputy Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Behrouz Kamalvandi upon his arrival at Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport [AP]

Tehran, Iran – Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have agreed to maintain communication and dialogue after the nuclear watchdog’s director-general visited Tehran, days before talks to restore the 2015 nuclear deal resume in Vienna.

Rafael Grossi landed in the Iranian capital late on Monday and met the country’s nuclear chief, Mohammad Eslami, early on Tuesday. The two then said during a joint news conference they agreed to continue talks.

Grossi, on his third such visit since February, said the two sides would keep the talks going with the aim of finding “common ground” and achieving positive results.

Eslami said Iran and the IAEA agree no “deviancy” has been observed in the country’s nuclear programme, which he said was conducted within the framework of agreements on safeguards.

Iran has gradually made progress on its nuclear programme since the United States unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal in 2018 and imposed sanctions. The country is now enriching uranium up to 60 percent and is employing advanced centrifuges, but maintains its nuclear goals are strictly peaceful.

The Iranian nuclear chief also said on Tuesday that Grossi had questions about “some instances that are published by our enemies as evidence with the agency”, which he said he answered, without elaborating further. He added some issues were outstanding, and some related to the past and were no longer ongoing.

“Today we agreed to put an end to these instances and through practices that we will adopt – negotiations for which are still ongoing – they won’t continue,” Eslami said.

Iran and the agency have been going back and forth over the issue of undeclared particles found at several nuclear sites dating from years back.

Most recently, the two have also been at odds over the issue of access to a centrifuge parts production site in Karaj, which was in June hit by a sabotage attack Iran blamed on Israel. The agency has not had monitoring access to the site since Iran says its security and judiciary investigations of the site are ongoing, and several agency cameras were damaged during the attack.

Grossi’s visit comes one day before the IAEA’s board of governors meeting commences, where any censure action against Iran is unlikely for fear of damaging the upcoming talks in Vienna.

Grossi (left) and Amirabdollahian (right) held their first meeting [Iranian foreign ministry handout]

Iran and the signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear deal is formally known, will reconvene in the Austrian capital on November 29 to resume six rounds of talks that were halted in June to allow President Ebrahim Raisi to form his new administration.

Later on Tuesday, the IAEA chief held his first meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian

Amirabdollahian told Grossi that Iran has “serious will” to have constructive cooperation with the agency within the framework of safeguards, and expressed hope that his trip could bolster trust.

The foreign minister also emphasised that the agency must remain “technical, professional, and impartial” and ignore political pressures. His comments came days after France had urged the IAEA board of governors to send a tough message to Iran, and warned that the Vienna talks must not be a “sham”.

The Iranian foreign ministry quoted Grossi as telling Amirabdollahian that he agreed on the need for the agency’s impartiality. Grossi also reportedly said the agency was ready to boost cooperation with Iran to resolve remaining issues during the coming months.

Source: Al Jazeera