IAEA Chief Plans to Be Back in Tehran in Coming Days

Grossi said he had technical conversations with Iran in September, but will discuss deep political issues in this round
IAEA Chief Plans to Be Back in Tehran in Coming Days
IAEA Chief Plans to Be Back in Tehran in Coming Days

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi said he plans to travel to Tehran hopefully within a few days to proceed with earlier discussions on monitoring issues. 
“Back in September, what we agreed was that I would be returning,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday. 
He added that at that point, they had technical conversations, but this round would potentially center on political aspects. 
“This is a vast issue that has not only technical implications, there are deep political issues that we need to discuss, to hammer out and to come to understandings,” he said.
Iran restricted IAEA inspections as per a parliamentary law in February, as part of countermeasures against tough sanctions that the United States reimposed on Tehran after quitting the 2015 nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. 
Grossi negotiated a last-minute compromise to keep cameras recording at key nuclear sites in Iran, temporarily forgoing examination of their footage until a possible removal of US sanctions. 



Fragile Surveillance 

He traveled to Iran in September to discuss the IAEA’s access to its monitoring equipment, as a result of which the agency was able to service cameras and replace memory cards at all sites in Iran, aside from the TESA Karaj complex. 
The workshop in Karaj makes components for centrifuges, but was hit by apparent sabotage in June in which one of four IAEA cameras there was destroyed.
Iran blames the sabotage on Israel, demanding condemnation by the international community and the IAEA.
“There is this issue with Karaj, and I’m working on it… Our stop-gap has been seriously affected so it’s not intact. But it’s not valueless either,” Grossi said in an interview with the Financial Times during a visit to Washington, where he met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.  
He said he has not been able to talk to Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, but urgently needs to have this contact at political level to discuss proposals to reinvigorate the fragile surveillance program. 
“This is indispensable. Without it, we cannot understand each other.” 
Based on conversations with Iranian officials, Grossi said he anticipates news soon about the date of his trip to Tehran, but expects it to be before the agency’s November Board of Governors meeting, where western powers could push to censure Tehran formally. 
It is up to Iran to decide who would attend the discussions, according to the IAEA chief, but that would certainly be at high political level. 



Uncertain Phase 

The continued surveillance of Tehran’s nuclear activity through cameras and other devices has sustained hope of the success of negotiations in Vienna, Austria, that aim to resurrect the JCPOA. 
Six rounds of talks have been stalled since June, following a change of government in Iran. 
The new administration has reviewed the past rounds and is currently tackling the remaining challenges in talks with the European coordinator in Brussels before returning to Vienna. 
Grossi said although the new government in Tehran has a critical view on everything about the JCPOA and has a different approach in general, there is still an intention on both Iran and the US to go back to the negotiations. 
As guarantor and inspector of the deal, however, he thinks the process “is a sort of an uncertain phase” at the moment, because the process is supposed to be continuing, but at the same time there is “an impasse or an interruption or a pause.”
Iran demands a complete and verified removal of US sanctions before reversing its countermeasures while Washington is reportedly refusing to lift all its bans unconditionally. 

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