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IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano's Remarks at the International Institute for Strategic Studies

Brussels Belgium
Yukiya Amano

(As prepared for delivery)

Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am very pleased to be with you at this EU non-proliferation consortium event.

As you all know, the IAEA helps to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons by implementing safeguards to verify that all nuclear material and activities in a country are in peaceful purposes.

We also help to make nuclear science and technology available to generate electricity, improve human and animal health, increase food production – and much more.

This is an extremely important part of our work and it deserves more attention than it generally gets.

But I understand that nuclear verification is the main focus of interest this evening. So let me begin by giving you a little history of the IAEA’s role in the Iran nuclear issue.

When I became Director General in December 2009, Iran had already been on the Agency’s agenda for seven years.

The Agency was reporting to our Board of Governors on a quarterly basis about the efforts of our inspectors to establish what exactly had been going on.

The level of cooperation provided by Iran throughout those years was variable. But it was never sufficient to address international concerns.

I am a fairly systematic person and I like to work from first principles. Right from the start of my term, I stressed the fundamental principle that all safeguards agreements between the IAEA and Member States should be implemented fully.

So should other relevant obligations, such as resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.

I felt that spelling out the issues with clarity was an essential first step towards resolving the problems concerning Iran’s nuclear activities.

My quarterly reports to the IAEA Board of Governors from 2010 onwards stated that nuclear material declared to the Agency by Iran was not being diverted from peaceful purposes.

But I also stated that Iran was not providing sufficient cooperation to enable the Agency to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran was in peaceful activities.

I urged Iran to implement the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with the Agency. This is a powerful verification tool that gives the Agency additional access to information and to sites in the country concerned.

I also urged Iran to clarify the issues relating to what had become known as possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme.

In November 2011, I presented a detailed report to our Board of Governors and identified 12 areas of concern.

I stated that information obtained by the Agency indicated that Iran had carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. The information also indicated that, before the end of 2003, these activities had taken place under a structured programme, and that some activities might still be ongoing.

I stated that the information assembled by the Agency was, overall, credible. It was consistent in terms of technical content, individuals and organizations involved, and time frames.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me be clear. I did not say that Iran had nuclear weapons. But I did say that Iran had a case to answer.

In response to my report, the IAEA Board adopted a resolution urging Iran and the Agency “to intensify their dialogue aiming at the urgent resolution of all outstanding substantive issues.”

The Board also called on Iran to engage seriously, and without preconditions, in talks aimed at restoring international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.

Two years of talks between the Agency and Iran followed. However, virtually no progress was made. At times, we were going around in circles.

Around September 2013, we started to see some movement.

A very important dialogue began between Iran and the so-called P5+1 countries, which agreed a Joint Plan of Action in late 2013. The seven countries asked the Agency to undertake monitoring and verification of nuclear-related measures to be implemented by Iran.

Just before that agreement, Iran and the IAEA signed a Framework for Cooperation. The basic objective was to resolve all outstanding issues, past and present, through strengthened cooperation and a step by step approach.

The two separate strands of negotiations continued, between Iran and the P5+1 countries on the one hand, and between Iran and the Agency on the other. We were not party to the talks between Iran and the six countries, but we did provide technical advice.

Then, in July 2015, Iran and the six countries agreed a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Security Council asked the IAEA to undertake verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA, and our Board authorised us to do so.

The JCPOA stated that Iran would implement the Additional Protocol. This is an essential prerequisite for the Agency to be able to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.

Iran also agreed under the JCPOA to implement a number of additional transparency measures, including enhanced access to uranium mines and mills, and continuous surveillance of centrifuge manufacturing plants.

These measures go beyond the scope of the additional protocol and will help the Agency to better understand Iran’s nuclear activities.

Just before the JCPOA was agreed in July, I signed a Road-map with Iran for the clarification of the possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme.

The purpose of the Road-map was to accelerate and strengthen the cooperation and dialogue between the Agency and Iran with a view to resolving all outstanding issues by the end of 2015.

In September, I travelled to Iran for high-level meetings with Iranian leaders. I also visited a location of interest at the Parchin site to which the Agency had long been requesting access.

Deputy Director General Tero Varjoranta and I entered a building which the Agency had previously only been able to observe using satellite imagery. Environmental samples were also taken at Parchin and sent to the IAEA’s specialist laboratories in Vienna for analysis.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last month, I informed our Member States that activities set out in the Road-map between Iran and the Agency had been completed by the deadline of October 15th.

We are finalising our analysis of all of the information at our disposal. I will present my final assessment on all past and present outstanding issues to our Board of Governors by December 15th.

The IAEA is a technical organisation and our job is to establish the facts, to the best of our ability. My report will be factual, objective and impartial. It is up to our Member States to determine the appropriate response.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have a number of observations on the whole process.

The first is that even complex and challenging issues can be tackled effectively if all parties are committed to dialogue – not dialogue for its own sake, but dialogue aimed at achieving results.

In the case of Iran, the key players did their jobs and stayed the course. The sustained efforts of the IAEA, the P5+1 countries, the UN Security Council – and, of course, Iran itself – have got us to where we are today.

My second observation is that the IAEA was able to make a vital contribution by sticking to its technical mandate and not straying into politics.  

The Agency has faced criticism from many quarters, not all of it fair. We have been accused both of being too tough on Iran and of being too accommodating. That suggests to me that we have probably got it about right. By sticking to the facts and our technical mandate, we retained the confidence of all sides.

The Agency has top-class experts, considerable and unique experience implementing safeguards throughout the world, and a range of high-tech equipment.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IAEA will continue to implement safeguards in Iran with a view to being able to draw what we call the “broader conclusion” – that all nuclear material remains in peaceful activities – in due course.

The agreements reached in July represent a clear net gain for the IAEA from the verification point of view. The combination of our comprehensive safeguards agreement with Iran, the Additional Protocol, and the transparency measures agreed in the JCPOA enhances our ability to verify the nature of Iran’s nuclear activities.

Much work lies ahead of us, but we have the expertise and experience to do the job. The IAEA will remain the eyes and ears of the international community on nuclear matters in Iran.

Thank you.

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Last update: 26 July 2017