Iran is sticking with nuclear deal
UN agency says all sites inspected were compliant, but uncertainty over deal remains after US president reimposed sanctions
Iran is sticking to the terms of its nuclear deal with world powers, a UN atomic watchdog report showed on Thursday, despite uncertainty over its future.
The report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed Iran is still complying with key parameters of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed by Iran and the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.
It comes despite the future of the deal being thrown into doubt after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact in May and reimposed US sanctions. The latest report says the IAEA had access "to all the sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit".
The agency repeated language in its previous report emphasising the importance of "timely and proactive co-operation in providing such access" on Iran’s part.
A senior diplomat with knowledge of the issue said that the language was a way "to send a message to Iran to prevent potential problems" rather than being caused by any particular behaviour on the part of the Iranians. The report said Iran’s stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and heavy water had both slightly increased since the last report in May but were still under the limits agreed to in the 2015 deal.
Iran’s economy has been battered by the return of US sanctions following Trump’s decision, undermining support for the deal within Iran. On Wednesday Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Tehran should be ready to "set aside" the JCPOA if it is no longer in its national interests.
However, Khamenei said talks should continue with European states, which have been trying to find a way to salvage the agreement. Last week the EU agreed an €18m package of assistance to Iran "for projects in support of sustainable economic and social development" in the Islamic Republic, the first tranche of a wider package worth €50m.
Most foreign companies have abandoned investment projects in Iran, and the next phase of renewed US sanctions in November will hit the crucial oil sector. Speaking on Thursday while attending meetings of EU foreign and defence ministers in Vienna, Austria, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that despite disagreements with Iran over other issues, "we believe that addressing regional disagreements with Iran can be done in a more effective manner if we maintain the nuclear deal in place".
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, also speaking in Vienna, said that in his opinion Iran was respecting "the fundamentals of the JCPOA".
However, Le Drian added that "Iran cannot avoid discussions, negotiations on three other major subjects that worry us," namely Iran’s ballistic missile programme, the long-term future of its nuclear programme and its role in conflicts in the wider region.
In June, in a bid to mount pressure on the Europeans, Iran announced a plan to increase its uranium enrichment capacity with new centrifuges in the event that the agreement collapses, while still denying any desire to build a nuclear weapon. Under the 2015 agreement, Iran can only enrich uranium to 3.67%, far below the 90% level needed for nuclear weapons.