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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Iran extends nuclear monitoring deal for a month

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The decision comes amid the ongoing Vienna talks, which aim to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA].

Iran has reportedly informed the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], the UN’s nuclear watchdog, that it will extend the monitoring deal for a month after its expiry. The news was announced by Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s top representative at the Vienna talks, on Monday.

“Breaking News! #Iran extended temporary understandings with #IAEA on verification for one month. Commendable step. It will help maintain businesslike atmosphere at the Vienna talks on #JCPOA and facilitate a successful outcome of the diplomatic efforts to restore the nuclear deal,” Ulyanov tweeted.

According to Reuters, Iran’s representative at the UN in Vienna, Kazem Gharibabadi, said no data from the past three-month monitoring period or from next month will be handed over to the IAEA. Reuters sourced the news from Iran’s Etemad newspaper.

This followed Iran’s announcement on May 23rd that the monitoring deal had expired, ceasing the IAEA’s access to images from some Iranian nuclear sites. This raised questions regarding the fate of the ongoing Vienna talks, which aim to restore the JCPOA.

The three-month monitoring agreement was initially signed in February, when the head of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, visited Iran to monitor its nuclear activities. The hopes were to lift the sanctions imposed by the US following Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the accord in 2018.

Read also: Qatar’s FM urges ‘positive’ discussions at Iran nuclear deal talks

“We reached a temporary bilateral technical understanding whereby the agency is going to continue its necessary verification and monitoring activities for a period of up to three months,” said Grossi in February, following the signing of the monitoring deal.

This came after European diplomats warned that the failure to agree on an extension would hinder efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear accord.

Ulyanov believes the extension is a positive step in the current indirect US-Iran talks in Geneva. This echoes Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s statement regarding Washington’s readiness to lift the sanctions on his country’s oil, banking and shipping sectors.

“The talks in Vienna are about minor issues. They have accepted to lift sanctions on Iran’s oil and shipping sectors as well as sanctions on the Central Bank and others,” said President Rouhani on 21 May.

The indirect meetings between the US and Iran are attended by members of the deal China, France, Russia, the UK and Germany, which have been witnessing signs of progress.

The US and Iran  have agreed on the formation of two working groups to ensure compliance in the accord – one to oversee the lifting of sanctions on Tehran and another to monitor its limitation of nuclear activity.

The Trump administration withdrew the US from the JCPOA on 8 May 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran to apply ‘maximum pressure’. This led to a series of tensions between the two rival states.

Consequently, Iran’s economy took a great hit and fell into a recession, the sanctions particularly striking its oil sales.

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