The speaker of Iran’s parliament said a three-month monitoring deal between Tehran and the UN nuclear watchdog has expired and that its access to images from inside some Iranian nuclear sites would cease.
The announcement on Sunday raised further questions about the future of indirect talks under way between the United States and Iran on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
“From May 22 and with the end of the three-month agreement, the (IAEA) agency will have no access to data collected by cameras inside the nuclear facilities agreed under the agreement,” state TV quoted parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf as saying.
The International Atomic Energy Agency and Tehran struck the three-month monitoring agreement in February to cushion the blow of Iran reducing its cooperation with the agency, and it allowed monitoring of some activities that would otherwise have been axed to continue.
IAEA chief Rafael Grossi is in talks with Iran about extending the agreement.
European diplomats said last week that a failure to agree upon an extension would plunge the wider, indirect talks between Washington and Tehran on reviving the 2015 deal into crisis. Those talks are due to resume in Vienna this week.
The IAEA had planned for Grossi to hold a news conference on Sunday but it said he was still “consulting with Tehran” and that his news conference had been postponed until Monday morning.
An unnamed Iranian official was quoted as saying the agreement between the IAEA and Tehran could be extended “conditionally” for a month.
“If extended for a month and if during this period major powers … accept Iran’s legal demands, then the data will be handed over to the agency. Otherwise, the images will be deleted forever,” according to the member of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.
Without commenting on the parliament speaker’s earlier announcement, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said on Sunday that Tehran would continue the talks in Vienna “until reaching a final agreement”.
He also repeated an earlier statement that “Washington has agreed to lift sanctions” on Iran, according to Iranian state media.
US says unclear if Iran ready to return to pact
Iran and global powers have held several rounds of negotiations since April in Vienna, Austria, working on steps that Tehran and Washington must take, on sanctions and nuclear activities, to return to full compliance with the nuclear pact.
Iran began gradually breaching terms of the 2015 pact with world powers after former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that it remains unclear whether Iran is “ready and willing” to take the necessary steps to return to compliance with the multination nuclear agreement.
Speaking before a fifth round of talks in Vienna on rescuing that deal, Blinken was asked about Iranian reports that Washington had already agreed to lift some of the sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.
“We know what sanctions would need to be lifted if they’re inconsistent with the nuclear agreement,” he said on ABC’s This Week.
He added that more importantly, “Iran, I think, knows what it needs to do to come back into compliance on the nuclear side, and what we haven’t yet seen is whether Iran is ready and willing to make a decision.