Iran, IAEA hold talks as nuclear negotiations near finish line

Iran’s FM says he will go to Vienna to sign an agreement soon if all of Iran’s red lines are considered in it.

The flag of Iran waves in front of the the International Center building with the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency
The flag of Iran waves in front of the the international centre building with the headquarters of the IAEA in Vienna [File: AP]

Tehran, Iran – The head of the global nuclear watchdog and senior Iranian officials have held crucial talks as Iran and world powers are on the verge of restoring their 2015 nuclear deal.

Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), met Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami in the capital, Tehran, on Saturday.

A major talking point was IAEA safeguards probes, including into several sites where undeclared radioactive materials were found several years ago.

After his meeting with Eslami, the IAEA director told reporters that even as safeguards issues and the JCPOA run parallel to each other, they are closely interrelated.

“It would be difficult to imagine that such an important return to such a comprehensive agreement like JCPOA would be possible if the agency and Iran would not see eye-to-eye on how to resolve these important safeguards issues,” Grossi said.

But both Grossi and Eslami signalled an understanding has been reached on mutual cooperation.

The Iranian nuclear chief said the IAEA will be provided with documentation on “remaining issues” by the third Iranian calendar month in late May without disclosing further details.

‘Will never seek a nuclear bomb’

Iran, which maintains it never had and will never seek a nuclear bomb, believes the issue of the possible military dimensions of its nuclear programme should be laid to rest as it was resolved during the original JCPOA talks.

Iranian officials have previously referred to issues relating to the probe as “political demands” by the West that need to be let go if the Vienna talks are to be successful.

Earlier this week, Grossi had said he will “never” abandon the safeguards probe due to a political reason, saying “the only way these issues will go away is if they are clarified to the full satisfaction of the IAEA”.

The director had a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet prior to landing in Tehran, and will reportedly brief him again after his return to the Austrian capital.

Israel, the strictest opponent of the nuclear accord and its restoration, which maintains Iran is after a nuclear weapon, has repeatedly said it wants the probe to remain open.

Grossi landed in Tehran late on Friday and wrote in a tweet that “this is a critical time, but a positive outcome for everyone is possible”.

Saturday’s developments come as an announcement on the success – or breakdown – of the Vienna talks is expected shortly.

Ready to sign

Iran’s foreign minister on Friday told the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell that he will go to Vienna to sign an agreement soon if all of Iran’s red lines are considered.

In addition to dropping the IAEA inquiry, Iran has also demanded the lifting of a wide scope of sanctions, including a “foreign terrorist organisation” designation on its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, guarantees that the US will not renege on the deal again, and a mechanism to verify effective lifting of sanctions.

On Friday, the chief negotiators of the so-called E3 – France, Germany, and the United Kingdom – went back to their capitals to keep their foreign ministers abreast of the latest developments in preparation for a final announcement.

But Iran’s chief negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, stayed in Vienna to continue holding talks with his counterparts from Russia and China.

The latest of confidential reports by the IAEA – which are regularly leaked to Western media outlets despite Iranian objections – said on Thursday that Iran has produced 33.2 kilogrammes (73 pounds) of 60 percent enriched uranium, up from 17.7kg (39 pounds) in early November when the previous report was released.

Iran had committed to cap its uranium enrichment to 3.67 percent and limit its stockpile to 202.8kg (447 pounds) until 2031 under the JCPOA, but gradually abandoning those limits a year after the US withdrew from it.

Source: Al Jazeera