The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency told journalists on Monday that inspections in Iran should not be used as a “bargaining chip” to revive a troubled nuclear deal.
After speaking to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors, Director General Rafael Grossi told a press conference that while the agency had opened a window of opportunity for diplomacy in Iran, it should not be put in the middle of negotiations between Iran, the United States and other nations over the deal.
On 15 February, Iran announced that it would stop implementing “voluntary transparency measures” in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal, along with other arrangements in Iran’s Safeguards Agreement.
The IAEA chief said to the 35-nation board that a “temporary bilateral technical understanding” had been agreed upon during his visit to the country last month that would enable the UN agency to “resume its full verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA if and when Iran resumes its implementation of those commitments”.
The IAEA chief also raised the alarm that nuclear activities in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), commonly known as North Korea, remains “a cause for serious concern”.
“The continuation of the DPRK’s nuclear programme is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable”, Mr. Grossi said, adding that the Vienna-based agency was intensifying its readiness “to play its essential role in verifying North Korea’s nuclear programme”.
Reviewing nuclear safety
The IAEA chief also drew attention to the agency’s Nuclear Safety Review 2021, which provides an overview of the agency’s activities and global trends in nuclear, radiation, transport and nuclear waste safety protcols, as well as in emergency preparedness and response.
“This year, it also identifies the priorities in these areas, and provides an analytical overview of overall trends”, he said.
Moreover, the UN official flagged IAEA’s work in strengthening global preparedness for future pandemics through its Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) initiative on diseases, that jump from animals to humans – the common path for viruses such as COVID-19.
He said the initiative will help to reduce the chance that the next outbreak will wreak “the deadly destruction we are suffering today”.
And Mr. Grossi informed the members that last week, IAEA signed revised arrangements with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to “help Member States respond to emerging challenges from climate change to outbreaks of zoonotic diseases”.
Climate on the table
As the Agency prepares for the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, scheduled for November in Glasgow, Scotland, Mr. Grossi said that he would personally deliver the message that “nuclear energy has a seat at the tables when the world’s future energy and climate policies are being discussed”.
“Almost five years after the signing of the Paris Agreement, governments are becoming increasingly aware that they must shift from fossil fuels to nuclear and other low-carbon technologies, if they are to reach their net zero objectives”, Mr. Grossi said.
The Director-General concluded by assuring that the agency was continuing its work on advancing gender equality, and invited Member States to join a panel discussion with some of the IAEA’s early women pioneers on 8 March, International Women’s Day.
Iran nuclear deal: a summary
- What is the Iran nuclear deal? The 2015 “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA), sets out rules for monitoring Iran’s nuclear programme, and paves the way for the lifting of UN sanctions.
- Which countries are involved? Iran, the five members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, UK, US), plus Germany, together with the European Union.
- What is the UN’s involvement? A UN Security Council resolution to ensure the enforcement of the JCPOA, and guarantee that the UN’s atomic energy agency, the IAEA, continues to have regular access to and more information on Iran’s nuclear programme, was adopted in 2015.
- Why is the deal at risk? The current US Administration pulled out of the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions. In July 2019, Iran reportedly breached its uranium stockpile limit, and announced its intention to continue enriching uranium, posing a more serious proliferation risk.