As a new round of nuclear negotiations to revive the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal is ongoing in Vienna, Iran and the West are wrestling over the "safeguards issue." Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) safeguards agreement and the additional protocol, Iran is obligated to declare its nuclear activities and materials to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Nuclear Talks Resume in Vienna After 5-Month Hiatus
The IAEA Director Rafael Grossi has said on several occasions that Iran failed to cooperate with the watchdog after uranium traces were identified at undeclared sites in Iran. The agency, along with the U.S. and Europe, insists that Iran should address their doubts about the background of Iran's nuclear program and urges Tehran to answer the questions about this issue with clarification.
The European parties to the nuclear deal on Friday urged Iran not to make unrealistic demands outside the scope of the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), including on IAEA safeguards.
"The text is on the table. There will be no re-opening of negotiations. Iran must now decide to conclude the deal while this is still possible," a European statement was quoted as saying.
IRAN AGAINST ACCUSATION
On the other side, Iran has repeatedly noted that the IAEA's reports are "political" and this case should be closed simultaneously with the revival of the JCPOA.
"The safeguards issues have been raised and continued under political pressures, and they should not be used as an excuse to find faults against Iran endlessly," Iran's official IRNA news agency reported on Friday, quoting an Iranian diplomat involved in the nuclear negotiations.
Furthermore, following the passage of the anti-Iran resolution in June, Iran decided to begin injecting uranium gas into advanced centrifuges and disconnected some of the IAEA's cameras monitoring its sites.
On Sunday, Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in a telephone conversation with UN Secretary Antonio Guterres about Iran's "continued" cooperation with the IAEA, advising the UN nuclear watchdog completely resolve the remaining safeguards issues "merely through technical channels."
KEY TO POSSIBLE AGREEMENT
A final agreement could be reached "only when safeguards claims were resolved and closed," Mohammad Jamshidi, the political deputy of the President's Office, tweeted on Friday, saying it was the firm position of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
On Wednesday, Mohammad Eslami, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the JCPOA, which was reached in 2015 but abandoned by Washington in 2018, was supposed to end these accusations against Iran and build trust.
He said Iran will not turn on the UN nuclear watchdog's ultra-Safeguards Agreement cameras until all accusations leveled against the Islamic republic are withdrawn. However, Western officials have insisted "they wouldn't intervene to close the probe or to set a fixed deadline for the IAEA's work," the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.
"The political deal on the safeguards probe is the most difficult issue and the success of the negotiations in Vienna to restore the JCPOA depends on that. It is currently unclear how long the talks in Vienna will last. It is still a very fluid situation," Stephanie Liechtenstein, a freelance journalist based in Vienna, tweeted on Saturday.