Sun, 19 Sep 2021

TEHRAN, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran reached an agreement on Sunday, in possibly an instrumental step for the continuation of nuclear talks.

The Iran-IAEA agreement, described by both the Islamic republic and the United Nations nuclear watchdog as "constructive," has raised hopes ahead of the agency's ongoing Board of Governors meeting with a focus on Iran's cooperation, experts said.

"Very good consultations were held between the two sides," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in his weekly press conference on Monday.

Iran will maintain its "ordinary and technical" cooperation with the IAEA, as long as the UN watchdog sticks to a "non-political and non-discriminatory" approach to Iran, he said. NEW AGREEMENT

Tehran announced on Sunday the deal with the IAEA will allow the UN atomic watchdog to service its monitoring equipment installed in Iran's nuclear facilities and keep them running.

Furthermore, it was agreed that IAEA experts will visit Iran to replace the memory cards from the technical surveillance cameras at the nuclear facilities and take necessary technical measures for the cameras, according to Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Mohammad Eslami.

"Memory cards will be sealed and stored ... in Iran, and new cards will be installed," he said.

Khatibzadeh stressed on Monday that the IAEA will perform its operations without having access to the film or memory cards, and the organization will not have increased access based on the IAEA's Additional Protocol in Iran.

After Iran's parliament passed a law in December 2020 stipulating that the Iranian government should stop implementing the IAEA's Additional Protocol on Feb. 23, 2021, Iran reached a three-month temporary agreement with the IAEA and then extended the measures for another month to store video records of cameras monitoring its nuclear facilities.

But Iran refuses to deliver records of past months to the IAEA unless U.S. sanctions on Iran are lifted.

Following the six rounds of nuclear negotiations from April to June in Vienna that failed to bring Washington back to the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or remove U.S. sanctions on Iran, Tehran suspended the IAEA's access to the agency's monitoring apparatus installed inside the country's nuclear facilities.

A recent report by IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi claimed that the agency's activities in Iran have been severely undermined and has created challenges with the Middle Eastern country, prompting Western powers to ponder over a possible anti-Iran resolution at the governors meeting. STOPGAP MEASURE

The announcement between Iran and the IAEA on Sunday revived hopes that diplomacy could resolve the disputes over the JCPOA, said Dariush Qanbari, an Iranian political expert.

International efforts to resume the JCPOA have entered into a two-month deadlock following six rounds of negotiations in Vienna, with Washington and Tehran at loggerheads.

Although it unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal, Washington has been pressing Iran to resume talks as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently warned that time was running out for reviving the Iran nuclear deal.

In a recent televised interview, Iran's new President Ebrahim Raisi said that "negotiations are an option as a diplomacy tool, but negotiation under pressure and threats is not acceptable at all."

Yet the new agreement showed that "there is a hope that the rail of the negotiations is still in place and can be used to move on," Qanbari said, according to Iran's Arman Melli daily on Monday.

Qanbari expressed optimism about the current state of diplomatic efforts, noting that "the other side knows that it has no choice but to negotiate with Iran ... That is why there is optimism about the outcome of the talks in the coming months."

Upon his return from Iran, Grossi told reporters at Vienna airport on Sunday that the deal with Tehran is not a permanent solution, but a stopgap -- a measure to allow time for diplomacy.

The diplomatic efforts that led to the deal is an indication of the political will of both sides to continue working together, Yousef Molaei, an expert on international relations, also wrote in Arman Melli on Monday.

Grossi's trip was a "positive trip that will definitely have an indirect effect on the process of possible negotiations between Iran and the five remaining parties to the JCPOA, attended by the United States indirectly, and we hope that positive results will be achieved," Molaei said.

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