VIENNA (Dispatches) – Iran said Saturday that the head of the International Atomic Energy Organization was arriving in the country for talks with Iranian officials.
Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, said in a tweet that Rafael Grossi was arriving Saturday, and would travel to Tehran in the afternoon. He’s scheduled to meet Iran’s vice-president and head of the country’s atomic organization, Muhammad Eslami, on Sunday.
Gharibabadi also said the two sides will issue a joint statement.
It will be Grossi’s first visit to the country’s since new President Ebrahim Raisi took office.
Talks between Iran and other countries to bring the U.S. back to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal have been idle since June, and Raisi took office in August.
The two major issues being negotiated are the removal of American sanctions imposed by former President Donald Trump’s administration after it withdrew from the deal, and the return of the U.S. to compliance with the accord.
Grossi’s trip comes before next week’s meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors.
“Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi will meet with Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Head of the AEOI, Muhammad Eslami, in Tehran on Sunday,” the IAEA said, adding that Grossi was expected to hold a news conference at Vienna airport around 8:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) on Sunday.
The IAEA informed member states this week that there had been no progress on two central issues: explaining uranium traces found at several old, undeclared sites and getting urgent access to some monitoring equipment so the agency can continue to keep track of parts of Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran has said the uranium traces are a thing of the past which has been settled before. As for the access to its nuclear facilities, Tehran says it has limited the inspections to what is allowed under the Safeguards Agreement and stopped its voluntary permits beyond the agreement.
Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018, re-introducing draconian sanctions. Iran responded as of 2019 by scaling back its commitments as per a provision of the nuclear deal, enriching uranium to a higher purity.
Western powers have dangled the idea of push8ing for a resolution criticizing Iran at next week’s meeting of the agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors, but a resolution could jeopardize the resumption of talks on the deal.
The European parties to the 2015 deal - Britain, France and Germany - held a meeting with the United States in Paris on Friday to discuss how to react at the IAEA board and to review options if Iran does not act according to their wish. But diplomats said no decisions had been taken as of yet, Reuters reported.
The news agency said countries on the IAEA Board of Governors will be watching Grossi’s visit to see whether Iran yields either on granting access to the monitoring equipment to service it or offers the prospect of answers on the uranium particles.