Iran-UN Monitor Pact Paves Way for Nuclear Deal Breakthrough

by BLOOMBERG

Iran agreed to extend a key nuclear-monitoring pact with United Nations inspectors, setting the Persian Gulf country up to revive a landmark agreement with world powers that could enable it to resume crucial oil exports.

The compromise with the International Atomic Energy Agency means Iran will continue storing camera data recorded at key atomic installations for one month, buying time for diplomats convening this week in Vienna to restore the 2015 agreement that capped nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

“This temporary technical understanding is a stopgap measure,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi at a press briefing in Vienna. “It’s something we came up with as a way to avoid flying completely blind.”

Diplomats warned last week, after the fourth round of negotiations in Vienna, that failing to extend the IAEA monitoring agreement could have scuttled the fragile process that seeks to end a standoff between Tehran and Washington that’s roiled oil markets and almost sparked a war between the two sides.

“We recommend the negotiating countries to seize the extra opportunity provided by Iran in good faith for the complete lifting of sanctions in a practical and verifiable manner,” Iran’s representative at the IAEA, Kazem Gharib Abadi, said in a tweet.

While oil markets are braced for an increase in Iranian supply, crude rallied above $64 a barrel after Iran’s Foreign Ministry said earlier on Monday that gaps remain in negotiations involving world powers around the sequencing and verification of sanctions removal.

Erasing the material would jeopardize the continuity of inspectors’ knowledge of the program. Iran and the IAEA have been at loggerheads for months over an investigation into decades-old particles of man-made uranium discovered at undeclared sites. Grossi said he expects to publish an update of that probe next month.

Following the Iranian parliament’s decision last year to restrict some agency access, Tehran reached a temporary monitoring pact with Grossi in February that enabled recorded video material to be temporarily retained.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is eager to restore the nuclear accord and secure the removal of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s tough sanctions regime before he leaves office later this year. Reviving the nuclear deal will loosen restrictions on Iranian oil exports, the nation’s main source of foreign currency revenue.