Nuclear watchdog from the UN and Iran extend the monitoring agreement for a month

The UN-Iran nuclear watchdog said Monday that an agreement to monitor Tehran’s activities would be extended by one month until June 24, as world powers hold talks to revive a 2015 nuclear deal.

World powers have been gathering in Vienna since early April in an effort to bring Washington back to the deal – which left the US in 2018.

The withdrawal under then President Donald Trump and the re-imposition of sanctions have led Iran to step up its nuclear activities.

Iran in late February restricted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to nuclear sites it oversaw as part of the 2015 deal.

A three-month agreement reached on Feb. 21, allowing some inspections to continue, was extended for another month, the IAEA announced.

“The verification and monitoring activities that we have agreed will continue as they now expire for a month and expire on June 24, 2021,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told a news conference.

Tehran has also agreed that information collected so far by the agency’s equipment in Iran will not be erased, he added.

Negotiators, trying to save the 2015 nuclear deal, welcomed the announcement.

EU negotiator Enrique Mora, who is leading the talks in Vienna, said diplomats would “redouble their efforts” to get the deal back on track.

“Good news … it gives a little more room to reach an agreement in Vienna,” he said on Twitter, and talks will resume on Tuesday.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, called the extension of the agreement a “commendable step,” while a US official speaking on condition of anonymity “welcomed” it.

‘Not ideal’

Grossi said the outcome of the “long discussion” with Iran to expand the technical understanding between the service and the Islamic republic was “important,” but the situation was “not ideal.”

“We all need to be reminded that the temporary notion is a kind of emergency measure. It’s something we came up with to avoid flying completely blind,” he said.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said in a statement that the one-month extension was intended to “provide the necessary opportunity for negotiations to move forward and deliver results.”

Iranian envoy to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, also confirmed the extension of the agreement, Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

“I advise (the countries participating in the Vienna talks) that this opportunity, which was offered due to the good faith of Iran, be used in a practical and verifiable way to lift the sanctions completely,” he said.

Iran insists that Washington must lift sanctions it has imposed after leaving the deal before Tehran withdraws its nuclear activities.

Under the 2015 accord, Iran had to shorten its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

‘Within reach’

Iranian State Department spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday that talks in Vienna hinge on a “political decision” by the US, after Washington questioned Tehran’s willingness to back up the accord.

“We have made significant progress and still believe an agreement is within reach,” he told reporters.

On Sunday, ahead of the fifth round of talks, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it remains unclear whether Iran is “ready and willing” to take the necessary steps to return to compliance with the multinational nuclear deal.

Washington and Tehran have been participating in indirect negotiations in the Austrian capital since the beginning of April.

The talks also include Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – and they, along with the EU President, act as a middleman between Washington and Tehran.

Mora of the EU had said on Wednesday that an agreement was being reached to get the US back into the deal, although things still needed to be worked out.

The goal is to finalize negotiations ahead of Iran’s presidential elections in mid-June.


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