VIENNA, March 31. /TASS/. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continues to fully inspect nuclear facilities in Iran in accordance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program, IAEA spokesperson Fredrik Dahl told TASS on Tuesday responding to a question of how the agency is monitoring compliance with the nuclear deal amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to him, the IAEA is continuing to monitor the coronavirus developments unfolding in the world. However, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi vowed that the agency "will not stop for a single minute" and will continue safeguarding nuclear material all around the world, the spokesperson quoted him as saying. "While there have been widespread travel disruptions and other logistical hurdles due to the outbreak, the IAEA is taking all necessary steps to overcome such challenges. It continues to carry out its safeguards activities in Iran and elsewhere, ensuring the effective implementation of its mandate while also taking all appropriate measures to protect the safety and security of our staff, whose work is crucial for international peace and security, and of the national officials they are interacting with," Dahl noted.
Moreover, IAEA inspectors are unhindered when working with difficult technical instruments. "These safeguards activities are conducted by our inspectors, who also have a range of sophisticated technical tools at their disposal. They are continuing their important work in a highly professional and dedicated manner during these extraordinary times. In the case of Iran, the Agency continues to maintain a 24/7 presence of inspectors on the ground," the IAEA spokesperson emphasized.
Iran’s confirmed coronavirus cases exceed 44,600, while 2,898 people died and 14,656 recovered. In late December 2019, Chinese authorities notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of a previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, in central China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus — named COVID-19 by the WHO — have been reported in more than 160 countries.
On March 9, the IAEA director general reported to the Board of Governors that agency inspectors had not identified any changes in Iran’s honoring its obligations to the nuclear deal after Iran announced the fifth step in scaling back its commitments. Grossi also urged Tehran to provide access to any facilities where undeclared nuclear material can possibly be stored where IAEA inspectors were not allowed.
The JCPOA was signed between Iran, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (Russia, the United Kingdom, China, the United States and France) and Germany in 2015. Under the deal, Iran undertook to curb its nuclear activities and place them under total control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange for abandonment of the sanctions imposed previously by the United Nations Security Council, the European Union and the United States over its nuclear program. Iran pledged not to enrich uranium above the level of 3.67% for 15 years and maintain enriched uranium stockpiles at the level not exceeding 300 kg, as well as not to build new heavy-water reactors, not to accumulate heavy water and not to develop nuclear explosive devices.
Tensions over Iran’s nuclear program exacerbated after Washington unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018 and slapped US economic sanctions on Iran’s oil exports. On May 8, 2019, President of Iran Hassan Rouhani said that Tehran was suspending the fulfilment of its part of the nuclear deal obligations. According to the Iranian side, the parties to the deal, particularly the Europeans, are not fully honoring their economic obligations and, therefore, the JCPOA in its current form is meaningless. Tehran continued to scale back on its commitments to the deal throughout 2019.
On January 5, Iran announced that it would no longer abide by restrictions set by the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. Tehran’s latest move means that Iran will no longer honor the JCPOA-set limitations on the number of centrifuges required to enrich uranium. On January 14, France, Germany and the United Kingdom announced that they had triggered the dispute resolution mechanism in the JCPOA, justifying the move by saying that Iran’s actions left them no other choice.