17:05 GMT12 April 2021
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    On Monday, the representatives of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom circulated a US-backed draft resolution for this week’s Vienna meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency expressing “serious concern” about Iran’s decision to curb cooperation with the nuclear watchdog, and demanding that Tehran immediately reverse course.

    The draft resolution by the European signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal proposing to censure Tehran at the IAEA’s board of governors is foolhardy and ill-advised, Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, has suggested.

    “IAEA Governors at their ongoing session face a great challenge,” Ulyanov wrote in a multi-tweet thread on his Twitter page on Wednesday.

    “They really can contribute to strengthening the global non-proliferation regime and [the] restoration of [the] JCPOA. They also can decide not to oppose highly risky political experiments,” the diplomat wrote.

    “When I say ‘a highly risky political experiment’ I mean an adoption of a stupid resolution which can undermine the prospects for a restoration of [the] JCPOA exactly at the moment when this task becomes very much feasible,” Ulyanov specified.

    The ambassador expressed sympathy for his “fellow IAEA colleagues” regarding the difficult choice before them, offering them a piece of advice on how to handle the resolution being proposed by the JCPOA’s three Western European signatories.

    “If you are not ready to be associated with a possible international crisis, let’s refrain from hasty actions. Let’s give a chance for diplomacy,” Ulyanov advised.

    The diplomat also called on Iran to continue cooperating “constructively” with the IAEA and to “make full use of the new opportunities” for the lifting of sanctions and for the nuclear agreement to be restored.

    Vienna Calling

    Ulyanov’s comments come amid plans by the European parties to the JCPOA, also known as the E3, to table a resolution at the IAEA’s 35-member Board of Governors meeting in Vienna this week criticising Iran’s moves to reduce cooperation with the United Nations nuclear watchdog. The draft resolution reportedly expresses “serious” and “deep” concern over Iran’s nuclear activities, including its alleged failure to explain traces of uranium found at three old nuclear sites.

    The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
    The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

    On Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed France’s plans to lodge a complaint with the IAEA on Iran. Separately, in a telephone conversation with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, French President Emmanuel Macron called on Tehran to take “clear steps” to resume dialogue on the nuclear talks, and similarly expressed Paris’s “deep concern over the decisions made by Iran in violation of the 2015 Vienna agreement.”

    On Monday, a spokesperson for the Iranian government warned the E3 against pressing ahead with the resolution, saying it threatens to undermine diplomacy. Iran, the spokesperson stress, expects “all parties to act rationally and prudently, and to know the value of fleeting moments.”

    The IAEA’s Board of Governors’ quarterly meeting comes against the backdrop of escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington over each side’s refusal to be the first to make concessions to restore the functioning of the JCPOA. The US side wants Iran to fully return to its commitments under the agreement and to reduce its uranium enrichment and stockpiling activities. The Islamic Republic suggests it’s up to America to drop its sanctions first – since it was the US side which abrogated its commitment to the treaty in the first place.

    The Trump administration unilaterally pulled out of the JCPOA in May 2018. Iran gave the deal’s remaining signatories one year to find a way to get around Washington’s crushing sanctions pressure. When they failed to do so, the Middle Eastern nation began ramping up its uranium enrichment and stockpiling activities to levels far above those outlined in the JCPOA, all the while maintaining that it has no plans to pursue nuclear weapons.

    Last month, Iran halted its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s Safeguards Agreement, which allowed IAEA inspections to carry out intrusive, short notice inspections of the country’s nuclear facilities. The halt was implemented in accordance with a law passed by Iran’s legislature in December giving the JCPOA’s signatories until 21 February for US sanctions to be removed.

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