Iran still hopeful for nuclear deal despite UN watchdog rebuke

Foreign minister claims US accepted a proposal from Tehran before IAEA censure last week, says Iran will not abandon negotiations stalled since March

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (right) gives a joint press statement with his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (left) at the foreign ministry headquarters in Tehran, Iran, June 14, 2022. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (right) gives a joint press statement with his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (left) at the foreign ministry headquarters in Tehran, Iran, June 14, 2022. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Iran on Tuesday said it still believes that negotiations can succeed to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, despite a recent rebuke from the UN nuclear watchdog.

Tehran last week condemned as “unconstructive” a move by the International Atomic Energy Agency to censure the country for failure to cooperate over its nuclear program.

It also disconnected some of its cameras at nuclear sites, a move the IAEA warned could deal a “fatal blow” to negotiations to revive the nuclear deal.

“We believe negotiations and diplomacy are the best ways to reach the final point of the agreement,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said during a joint press conference with his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in Tehran.

Talks began in April last year to bring the United States back into that landmark agreement after then-US president Donald Trump withdrew in 2018.

Israel was a staunch opponent of the 2015 nuclear deal and welcomed the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the agreement, which caused it to collapse.

Photographers and tv cameramen watch a demonstration of a monitoring camera used in Iran during a press conference of Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the current situation in Iran at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria on June 09, 2022. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

The negotiations also aim to lift sanctions on Iran and bring it back into compliance with nuclear commitments it made to world powers as part of the deal.

But the ever-delicate dialogue has been stalled since March.

The IAEA’s Board of Governors adopted a resolution on Wednesday censuring Iran for failing to adequately explain the previous discovery of traces of enriched uranium at three sites that Tehran had not declared as having hosted nuclear activities.

Amir-Abdollahian said that prior to the IAEA’s move, Tehran had put forward a new initiative that the US had accepted, adding that Washington nonetheless moved to submit the resolution censuring Iran.

But the Islamic Republic would not abandon negotiations, he said, adding that “contacts in the diplomatic fields will continue” through the European Union.

Iran “will not distance itself from… diplomacy and negotiations to reach a good, strong and lasting agreement,” Amir-Abdollahian noted.

Asked for comment on the Iranian foreign minister’s comments, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Biden administration’s assessment regarding the feasibility of restoring the nuclear agreement remained the same. If Iran was willing to forgo non-nuclear issues and return to compliance with the original agreement, the US was prepared to do the same, Price said.

Then-US President Donald Trump signs a document reinstating sanctions against Iran after announcing the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 8, 2018. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

The deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program to guarantee that it could not develop a nuclear weapon — something Tehran has always denied wanting to do.

But the US withdrawal in 2018 prompted Iran to begin rolling back on its own commitments under the pact.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh on Monday said all the measures the country has taken to scale back on its obligations under the accord are “reversible.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned in an interview published Saturday that Tehran was drawing “dangerously close” to producing nuclear weapons, and called on the global community to join Israel and ramp up pressure against Iran’s nuclear program and ambitions.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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