The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) questioned the Iranian regime’s lack of transparency regarding its nuclear program.
Despite this, he considered that with the arrival of Joe Biden to the presidency of the United States, a possibility of reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and six great powers appears “on the horizon”, although he admits the “complexity” of the scenario.
The Argentine diplomat Rafael Grossi noted that in recent months there has been progress “to a certain extent” in the negotiations to revive the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPAO, for its acronym in English) after the withdrawal of the United States under the administration of Donald Trump (2017-2021 ), and that there is a “prospect of agreement” to ease tensions between Washington and Tehran.
“With the arrival of President Biden, a new possibility appears on the horizon to return or to try to return to that agreement”, he said during an interview with the agency EFE in San Pablo.
However, he acknowledged that the road is not easy, as there are many factors of influence in this “complex” board, among them the lack of cooperation from the Iranian regime to clarify “a number of issues that are not clear” and the changes that will take place in the Iranian Government when ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raisi takes office, the new elected president of Iran.
The departure of the United States in 2018 and the imposition of economic sanctions on Iran during the Trump presidency meant a blow to the agreement, to which Tehran responded by violating the pact regarding the production and purity of sensitive nuclear material, such as enriched uranium.
“There is a prospect of agreement, but of course, it is they (the United States and Iran) who have to decide if they finally find that point of convergence in which all the nuclear part must be combined with the political part of economic sanctions.” Rossi analyzed.
“Let’s see if they find a happy point of intersection and we can have an agreement, but it is something that is not yet clear,” he added.
Tensions with North Korea
Grossi also expressed concern about the growing global tensions with the North Korean dictatorship and its vast nuclear arsenal, currently beyond any control by the IAEA, considered one of the most important pillars of the UN system thanks to its technical and political relevance.
According to the director, the agency has received “very clear information” indicating that North Korea has restarted its uranium enrichment program and “probably” reprocessing to obtain more nuclear material for its nuclear weapons.
For this reason, he considered it essential that the process of “rapprochement” between Washington and Pyongyang initiated during the Trump administration be resumed in some way.
In that sense, he celebrated some advances, such as meetings, summits and dialogues, held between Trump and the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, but pointed out that they were not able to direct the negotiations for a possible agreement.
“They did not manage to direct a negotiating process, but there was a rapprochement and that I think has to be recognized. That process was left unfinished and has to be taken up again in some way,” he said.
In case a pact is reached, Grossi assured that the IAEA will be ready to fulfill its “indispensable role” of verification, given that said treaty would imply possible “reductions and limitations” that must be “checked and verified”.
“We will surely be called upon to fulfill the role of guarantors and inspectors of that agreement -when and if an agreement is reached-. In any case, the Agency continues to monitor the North Korean nuclear program, which is a very active program that continues to grow,” he remarked.
However, as is the case with Iran, the director stressed that it is a very “complex” scenario, although he pondered that it is necessary to “make a distinction” between the two countries. “North Korea has already proliferated (nuclear weapons), passed the red line that Iran has not yet and that we have to try not to cross.”
IAEA, stronger than ever
Amid escalating tensions in different parts of the world and the challenges imposed on global diplomacy, Grossi sees the IAEA stronger than ever and assured that it has become a vital institution for the maintenance of peace and stability.
“The IAEA is getting stronger and stronger. There is international recognition that it is an indispensable body,” which is an indispensable tool “to guarantee peace and stability in the world,” he said.
In this sense, he highlighted the “increasingly important role” of that international agency in the face of the substantial increase in countries seeking to exploit nuclear energy, as well as the success of cooperation between Japan and the agency in the process of dismantling the Fukushima nuclear plant, damaged in 2011.
Last April, Japan formalized its decision to dump contaminated water from the nuclear power plant into the sea after treating it to remove most of the radioactive elements, a process that heated relations between Tokyo and some neighboring countries but was endorsed by the IAEA.
In this context, Grossi said he recognized the “political background” that marks the geopolitics of the region, for which he proposed to Japan that it accept the “permanent presence” of that agency throughout the process, which is scheduled to begin in 2023, in order to guarantee that there is “no negative effect on the water, on the marine sediments, or on the fish”.
“What we proposed to Japan is that the task that they are going to do be reviewed under monitoring and permanent presence before, during the process and afterwards, to verify how the water and the fish are jointly”, he indicated.
Grossi argued that, in the face of controversies, the best antidote is “transparency, information and education” and that is precisely what the body will do: “Inform at every step what is being done”.
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