IAEA chief explains outcome of Iran talks

27 August 2020

The agreement reached yesterday between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran is "very, very important" for non-proliferation, peace and security and the work of the agency worldwide, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told reporters on his return to Vienna from Tehran last night.

Grossi speaking to reporters on his return to Vienna from Tehran last night (Image: IAEA)

Grossi was in the Iranian capital for talks with Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, as well as with President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Grossi had travelled to Iran to discuss access for IAEA inspectors to the country's nuclear sites.

Grossi told reporters gathered outside Vienna airport that the joint statement he and Salehi had issued simultaneously "in Tehran and in Vienna" had encapsulated in its six paragraphs what had been the result of "very serious discussions".

"You will see there that there are references to the way we intend to work and to continue working, the necessity for trust and confidence among us," he said. "You will also see there something which is very important because when I left Vienna I said that I was going basically for two motives. One was to establish the direct channel of communication and dialogue with the Iranian authorities, and the second was of course to get access for our inspectors to two sites that we had been requesting to Iran and unsuccessfully I would say for a number of months."

The statement recognises agreement that IAEA inspectors will have access to these sites. "We have agreed on dates for this, we have agreed on the basic commonalities for this. This is extremely important. We have also recognised that these activities that we are going to have there are related to nuclear materials of all possible nuclear-related activities," he said.

"We have also agreed that in the present moment, in this present context, these are the places we need to go, these are the places we want to see. And in the present context, there are no other places that we need to visit.
This statement contains a lot of flesh and reflects what I believe is a very important understanding, a very important agreement, that allows us to continue our inspection work as it should be."

Asked when the inspections would be, Grossi said: "The exact dates is something that we do not normally reveal because this is part of confidential safeguards information we have, but I can tell you that they have been agreed and it is very, very soon."

On his comment that the agreement was important for peace and security, he said it had ended the interruption to the IAEA's work in Iran. "Our essential work for non-proliferation had found an obstacle and we were having serious difficulties in overcoming this obstacle for many, many months, and this was not only, I would say, of concern in the specific case of Iran, but also as I think I said on other occasions, also in terms of the non-proliferation regime because it was the first time that a request for access for our inspectors was not being heeded. So this is why we believe this was, something that I believe I said to the Board of Governors of the agency, something of serious concern."

There had been no "magic trick", he said, in persuading Tehran to grant access to its nuclear sites.

"This was the result of dogged, systematic dialogue, conversation, verification of the scope of our work, the way in which we do it, and as you may suspect, we were preparing this for a number of days here already. I sent my chief inspector to Iran a few weeks ago. So this did not come from some wonder, some magic. But it became clear at some point for, I would say, without wishing to speak for them, for the Iranian side and for us as well, that there was a need for dialogue at the highest possible level. And as you know this happened with me meeting President [Hassan] Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, as well as my nuclear counterpart, Dr. Salehi and others."

On future access to other sites, Grossi said, "I would not like to speculate, but I could imagine it. And of course if we have information that warrants us asking questions and, if necessary, access, we will do it."

The issue of geopolitical tensions surrounding Iran "came up, of course" during the talks.

"The agency, while being an indispensible and very influential factor in all of this, is not an active player in all of those things that you are describing. What the agency is trying to do is to do our job well. If that helps, all the better."

Asked whether he was confident Iran will provide access, he said: "I am absolutely convinced that this is going to be done in the right way [with] no limitations whatsoever, and of course in line with the accepted practices. You know that we have procedures in place to ensure confidentiality of information, the interests of the inspected countries. We do not roam around freely. We have a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, we have the AP [Additional Protocol], we have the facility agreement; we have all sorts of procedures in place, but within that normative framework, we are going to do everything that is needed to have an idea of what's going on there."

On the reception the agreement with Iran will receive from the IAEA Board of Governors and IAEA Member States, he said: "I can't speak for them and I report to them, but my impression is that this will be welcome. As you remember, this issue was considered by the Board of Governors and the Board of Governors echoed my concern, and since we have had a positive outcome and we can continue our work, it is my sincere hope that this will be received well."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News