Zarif Sounds Defiant As IAEA's Grossi Begins Talks In Tehran
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has said in a television interview Sunday that ending nuclear snap inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is not a violation of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Zarif defended a law passed by the Iranian parliament in December that set a February 21 deadline for Washington to lift all sanctions, saying the law will be implemented and cannot be vetoed by the president.
Although Iran had accepted the Additional Protocol that relates to snap inspections voluntarily, its decision to stop them by February 23, the West has raised serious concern among Western countries that have warned Iran such a move will damage chances for talks to revive the JCPOA.
Zarif also reiterated that the United States cannot rejoin the 2015 nuclear agreement unless it lifts sanctions former President Donald Trump imposed after he withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions (JCPOA), as the nuclear agreement is called. He added that after the US returns to the JCPOA it should compensate Iran for "one trillion dollars" of damages inflicted during the sanctions.
It is not clear how Zarif reached such an extremely high estimate of sanctions' impact, when President Hassan Rouhani has said at least on two occasions that the damage to iran's economy was $150 billion.
The United States and its three European allies, Germany, France and the United Kingdom have proposed an informal meeting of the JCPOA’s original signatories to begin negotiations on reviving the deal, but Tehran continues demanding the lifting of all sanctions.
Zarif also criticized what he said was “information leaks” from the IAEA regarding its inspections work in Iran. Recently, the were reports that inspectors found traces of radioactivity in previously undeclared nuclear sites they inspected.
Earlier on Saturday, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi had said that Iran is “studying” the European proposal for a meeting, in remarks that sounded more conciliatory, but it was followed by Zarif’s statement.
The Biden administration undertook two actions during the week as signs of goodwill toward Iran, easing restrictions imposed by the Trump administration in 2019 on Iranian diplomats’ movements in New York and rescinding Trump’s claim that all UN sanctions were reimposed on Iran.
The White House said on Friday the United States plans to take no additional actions in response to pressure from Iran before potential talks with Tehran and major powers about returning to the deal. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the EU had floated the idea of a conversation among Iran and the six major powers that struck the nuclear accord. "The Europeans have invited us and ... it is simply an invitation to have a conversation, a diplomatic conversation."
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, arrived in Tehran on Saturday, just two days before Tehran is scheduled to stop IAEA’s snap elections. But Araghchi said, "Grossi's trip has nothing to do with Iran's decision and Iran's decision shall be implemented.” He added, "About 20 to 30% of the IAEA's oversight capacity will be reduced as a result of the implementation of the parliament's decision."
Grossi began his diplomatic activity Sunday morning by meeting Ali-Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran Atomic Energy Organization and is scheduled to meet Zarif later.