Europeans to push for Iran censure at UN nuclear watchdog meeting

Published March 2, 2021
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and French President Emmanuel Macron during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels. — AP/File
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and French President Emmanuel Macron during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels. — AP/File

VIENNA: The three European members of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal will put forward a resolution condemning Iran’s suspension of some inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog, diplomatic sources said on Monday.

France, Germany and the UK will propose it during this week’s meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog’s board of governors, a delicate moment for diplomacy on the Iranian nuclear issue.

US President Joe Biden has said he is willing to bring the United States back to the landmark 2015 deal between Tehran and major powers on its nuclear programme.

It has been unravelling since Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump pulled the US out of the agreement in 2018.

France, Germany, UK will propose resolution during this week’s meeting of IAEA’s board of governors

But the proposed resolution could derail the temporary agreement that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi hammered out with Iran to mitigate what he calls the “huge loss” of some IAEA inspections.

A document circulated by the Iranian mission in Vienna and seen by AFP said the introduction of a critical resolution would effectively end the temporary agreement with the IAEA.

Under that three-month arrangement, which went into force on February 23, Iran has pledged to keep recordings “of some activities and monitoring equipment” and hand them over to the IAEA as and when US sanctions are lifted.

Russian opposition

Sources say the European resolution is expected to come to a vote on Friday and is backed by the United States.

A version of the text seen by AFP “expresses serious concern at Iran’s decision to stop implementing” some inspections-related commitments and “urges Iran to immediately resume implementation”.

The prospect of Iran suspending the temporary agreement with the IAEA in retaliation was described by one diplomatic source as “a risk to be taken” to protect “the credibility of the agency” and stand up to Iranian “blackmail”.

They were confident the resolution would be adopted, the source added.

If a resolution censuring Iran is passed, it would be the first one since June, which was itself the first in eight years.

Russia has also made clear its opposition to such a resolution. Such a move would be an “unfortunate miscalculation”, Moscow’s ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted Monday.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, speaking to reporters after the start of this week’s meeting, said the agency’s inspections “should not be put in the middle of a negotiating table as a bargaining chip”.

Asked whether the agency could still reassure the international community that the Iranian nuclear programme was exclusively peaceful under the new arrangements, Grossi replied: “So far, so good.”

The 2015 deal, known as the JCPOA, was undermined when former US President Donald Trump dramatically withdrew from it in 2018. He went on to impose swingeing economic sanctions on Iran.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2021

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