The board of governors at the UN’s nuclear watchdog has passed a resolution critical of Iran, diplomatic sources said Friday, the first of its kind since 2012.
The resolution calls on Tehran to provide inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with access to two sites in Iran in order to clarify whether undeclared nuclear activity took place there in the early 2000s.
It “calls on Iran to fully cooperate with the Agency and satisfy the Agency’s requests without any further delay, including by providing prompt access to the locations specified by the Agency.”
Iran has been blocking access to the sites for months, prompting a growing diplomatic row.
The resolution was carried by 25 votes in favor versus two against, with seven abstentions. Russia and China, both of which had spoken out against the prospect of a resolution earlier this week, voted against.
It had been put forward by France, Germany and Britain and supported by the United States, even though the American ambassador to the UN in Vienna had said “the text could be strengthened.”
Earlier this week Iran warned that such a resolution would be “counterproductive” and that it would take “appropriate measures” in response.
Russia’s Ambassador to the UN in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov echoed that position after the resolution was passed on Friday.
“While stressing the need for Tehran and IAEA to settle this problem without delay, we believe that the resolution can be counterproductive,” he tweeted.
Even though the sites in question are not thought to be directly relevant to Iran’s current nuclear program, the agency says it needs to know if activities going back almost two decades have been properly declared and all materials accounted for.
Speaking to reporters after the resolution was passed on Friday, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said it would be “absolutely unacceptable” if an example were to be set that states can be selective in their implementation of agreements with the UN agency.
“There are no exceptions. There is no Additional Protocol a la carte,” Grossi said, referring to the agreement under which the IAEA requested access to the sites.
“I intend to sit down with Iran very soon and to try to solve this as soon as possible,” he said, adding that Iran’s ambassador to the UN in Vienna Kazem Gharib Abadi would be his first port of call.
Earlier this week Gharib Abadi argued in a statement that the IAEA’s access requests were based on allegations from Iran’s arch-enemy Israel.
Iran this week argued that the IAEA’s access requests were based on allegations from Israel, which has flagged at least one site as a “secret atomic warehouse” and pressed the IAEA to investigate.
Despite the row over the two sites, the IAEA says it still has the access it needs to inspect Iran’s declared nuclear facilities, as the agency is mandated to do under the landmark deal between Iran and world powers reached in 2015.
However the latest row comes as that deal continues to unravel, with Iran continuing to breach the limits on nuclear activity in the accord in retaliation for the United States’ withdrawal from it and reimposition of sanctions.
At the start of this week’s meeting on Monday, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi repeated his appeal to Iran to “cooperate immediately and fully” and grant access.
While the new resolution is largely symbolic in character, it could be a prelude for the dispute being referred to the UN Security Council, the only UN body that can impose sanctions.
US President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal two years ago and went on to re-impose tough economic sanctions on Iran. In retaliation, Iran has been slowly abandoning limits on its activities set out under the deal, including on the size and enrichment level of its uranium stockpile.
Iran has accused the European parties to the deal — France, the UK and Germany — of not doing enough to mitigate the impact of American sanctions.