The monitoring agreement allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to collect data on some of Iranian nuclear activities after Tehran’s decision to reduce cooperation with the agency in February. But it expired overnight, with Iran leaving unanswered last week’s letter from the UN nuclear watchdog on prolonging the deal or signing a new one.
On Friday, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said that “an immediate response” was needed from Tehran on the matter, so that his agency could continue with its “vital” data collection.
But Iranian envoy to the IAEA Kazem Gharibabadi brushed the demand off, telling the country’s semi-official news agency Tasnim that “Iran was not required to comply” with it.
Earlier in the day, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Iran’s reluctance to prolong the monitoring agreement would be a “serious concern” for the ongoing talks on Washington’s return to the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) saw Tehran curb its nuclear energy program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.
However, in 2018 then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the landmark agreement, which he labeled “the worst deal ever” and imposed new sanctions on Iran. Tehran responded to the move by reneging on its commitments under the JCPOA, including by intensifying uranium enrichment.
After succeeding Trump in the White House, Joe Biden expressed his eagerness to restore the agreement, with hopes to expand it to also include Tehran’s regional activities and ballistic missile program. Indirect talks between Washington and Tehran, which started in the Austrian capital Vienna in April, have been put on hold, likely until early July.
“We still have significant differences with Iran,” Blinken said, adding that the agreement will only be reached if Tehran abides by its obligations under the JCPOA and “we are just not there yet.”
On Friday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh reiterated Tehran’s stance that the removal of sanctions should come first and that the ball was in the US’ court.
“We want the lifting of US sanctions, their verification by Tehran, and then the resumption of Iran’s compliance. It’s Washington, not Tehran, that should make a decision,” he said.