The head of the UN nuclear monitoring agency has said a U.S. return to the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran is possible, but stressed both sides need to be willing to negotiate.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi made the comment on March 16 during a video appearance before three European Parliament committees.
The United States pulled out of the deal unilaterally in 2018 under former President Donald Trump, but President Joe Biden has indicated that Washington would be willing to rejoin.
Complicating the matter, however, have been violations of the deal by Iran, including the amount of enriched uranium it can stockpile and the purity to which it can enrich it.
Experts say its moves have been calculated to put pressure on the other nations in the deal -- Russia, China, France, Germany, and Britain -- to do more to offset crippling sanctions reimposed under Trump.
Iran has said that before it resumes compliance with the deal, the United States needs to return to its own obligations under the deal by dropping the sanctions.
Asked about Iran's insistence that the United States take the first step, Grossi said that “it takes two to tango.”
He noted that over the past two years Iran has accumulated much nuclear material and new capacities, and used the time for “honing their skills in these areas."
“Even if you had a magic wand or the hand of God and said we go back tomorrow, there will be a lot of housekeeping,” he said.
Grossi said he had been talking to both sides in his agency's “impartial neutral role” and did think that a U.S. return to the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, was possible.
“They want to come back,” he said. “But of course...there are a number of issues that still need to be clarified. So it's not impossible. It is difficult, but not impossible.”
As part of its ongoing violations of the JCPOA, Iran last month began restricting IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities.
Under a last-minute deal worked out in a trip to Tehran by Grossi, however, some access was preserved.
Under that temporary agreement, Iran will no longer share surveillance footage of its nuclear facilities with the IAEA but it has promised to preserve the tapes for three months. It will then hand them over to the IAEA if it is granted sanctions relief. Otherwise, Iran has vowed to erase the tapes.
“Admittedly it is limited, but it allows [us] to maintain a record of the basic activities that are taking place,” Grossi said. “Granted, it is not the same as the whole access that we used to have.”
Grossi said it was important for the JCPOA powers to use this three-month “diplomatic window of opportunity” that Iran has granted.