United Nations’ nuclear watchdog reach agreement with Iran to avert another crisis

The head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog and Iran’s nuclear chief reached an agreement that will prevent another crisis looming over the prospect of restoring Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), landed in Tehran late on Saturday and met Mohammad Eslami, the newly appointed head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, on Sunday morning.

It was Grossi’s first trip to Tehran during the new administration of President Ebrahim Raisi, who appointed Eslami as the new nuclear chief on August 29.

Both sides called the meeting “constructive” and agreed they will continue discussions on the sidelines of the agency’s general conference in Vienna later this month.

They also agreed that Grossi would travel to Tehran again soon to replace the agency’s monitoring cameras’ memory cards, which will still be kept in Iran in line with a law passed by the hardline Iranian parliament in December.

Iran has since February said it will only hand over the tapes to the agency after an agreement is reached in Vienna that will lift unilateral United States sanctions.

“What matters to us, and the agency also emphasises upon, is to build trust,” Eslami said following the meeting.

The meeting came days after two new confidential IAEA reports were shared with the media, showing the agency’s concern over Iran’s nuclear programme.

The reports said Iran has failed to adequately cooperate on the agency’s recording equipment, some of which may have been destroyed after an incident, while it is resuming high enrichment of uranium, and has not provided a full explanation on nuclear materials at several locations.

The nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was signed in 2015 by Iran, the US, France, the United Kingdom, China, and Russia. But the US unilaterally abandoned it in 2018, imposing harsh sanctions.

In response to the sanctions, attacks on its nuclear facilities, and the assassination of a top nuclear scientist, Iran gradually boosted its nuclear programme, and is now enriching uranium to 60 percent, its highest-ever level.