Statement by Russian Governor of the IAEA Board of Governors and Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation at International Organisations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov on Agenda Item 6e at the IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Vienna, June 18, 2020

NPT Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran
June 18, 2020

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Russia considers the proper implementation of the safeguards agreements with the IAEA and the Additional Protocol both by its states parties and the Secretariat to be very important. The system of safeguards is one of the IAEA’s top priorities. It is necessary to ensure efficient and failsafe operation.

In this context, we are deeply disappointed and concerned about the fact that Tehran and the IAEA Secretariat have so far been unable to resolve the issue of the Agency’s access to Iran’s two locations it was interested in.

At the same time, we see no need for excessive dramatisation of this issue. Tangible progress is clear compared to what we saw prior to and during the March session of the IAEA Board of Governors. It is perfectly obvious from the Director-General’s report that Iran is not allowing access to these locations while it is not denying it to the Secretariat. Tehran needs additional consultations to make a positive decision. This is normal and fairly acceptable. We urge both the IAEA Secretariat and Iran to continue the discussion without delay and achieve a positive result as soon as possible.

I would like to mention one more important detail in this context. Thousands of verifications have been held in Iran in the past few years. Iran has granted access to these sites hundreds of additional times and provided all the necessary cooperation on every occasion. The lack of an understanding has occurred only in one case. Let me repeat that this happened against the backdrop of thousands of successful verification visits. It is necessary to look at these problems in this broad context.

Assessing the current state of affairs it is important to realise that this case has nothing to do with the risk of proliferation. It is merely assumed that undeclared experiments with small quantities of nuclear material may have been conducted on these sites about 20 years ago. Even if this were true Iran completely stopped these activities at its own initiative in 2004. This case cannot be extrapolated to the present.

The problem is elsewhere. It concerns procedures for implementing the Additional Protocol and using the information of third countries. According to the Protocol with which Iran voluntarily complies, it must provide access to the sites requested by the agency without delay. At the same time, the Secretariat should also develop its policy more carefully. We are perplexed that for a year and a half the Board of Governors has been dealing with issues that have little to do with the risk of nuclear proliferation. In effect, these are historical studies that are of little importance for monitoring the current status of the Iranian nuclear programme.

Reports on insignificant qualities of nuclear material that was supposedly used 20 years ago for undeclared purposes, are certainly part of the Secretariat’s mandate but hardly deserve such close attention from the Board of Governors in the context of real policy. The entire experience of using safeguards including in Iraq in the 1990s, shows that endless historical fact-grubbing is of little use and is sometimes counterproductive. It is no surprise that in December 2015 the Board closed the file on Iran’s alleged past nuclear activities. It is now clear that this was a wise decision that made it possible not to focus on unimportant events from the remote past and focus on ensuring conditions for ensuring the exclusively peaceful character of Iran’s nuclear programme, both at present and the future. Departure from this 2015 consensus decision is unacceptable. Every member of the Governing Board and the IAEA Secretariat must bear this in mind.

We must discuss this because although requests for visits are formally prompted by a desire to specify some technical nuance related to reports on nuclear materials, it is becoming clear now that they are balancing on the brink of a return to issues of “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear programme.

Regardless of the Secretariat’s intentions, questions rooted in the remote past are objectively becoming a new destabilising factor that further complicates the already difficult situation around the JCPOA.

We would like to emphasise that the escalation of tensions around Iran’s nuclear programme is counterproductive. On the contrary, we must create a constructive atmosphere and adequate conditions for IAEA-Iran cooperation. The routine problems in this cooperation must be eliminated under the standard procedures envisioned by the comprehensive safeguards agreement and the Additional Protocol, as it is with other non-nuclear countries with a comparable package of commitments.

It is important to understand that the current problems are not accidental. They have emerged due to the lack of clear-cut IAEA rules on handling information from third countries. The IAEA Secretariat and the Board must review this issue as a priority. Russia has drawn attention to this issue for many years now but no progress has been made. As a result, the difficulties that the Secretariat and all of us are facing now may come up again and not just in the context of Iran’s nuclear programme. We would like to ask the Secretariat to submit considerations in this respect at the Board’s September session. For our part, we plan to share with our partners our own ideas on this issue. This is absolutely necessary for the normal functioning of the safeguards system.

To conclude, we would like to emphasise again the need for Iran and the Secretariat to settle these questions without delay.

I will make two final remarks. We do not see the need for the adoption of a Board resolution. This could lead to negative consequences.

A question on the possible publication of a report on the use of safeguards in Iran was raised here. What is the point of this step? To confirm that the document leaked by someone to the press was authentic? I think this would only encourage those who violated confidentiality rules to continue this shameless behaviour.

Thank you, Madame Chairperson, for your attention.