For the first time since 2012, the board of governors of the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) passed a resolution critical of Iran on Friday, June 19.
The resolution submitted to the board by the United Kingdom, France and Germany, calls on Tehran to provide IAEA inspectors access to two sites in Iran in order to verify possible traces of unauthorized and undeclared nuclear material and nuclear activity.
The suspicion dates back to Iran's nuclear activities in the early 2000s. Observers in Iran and abroad have been maintaining since then that during the talks with European powers in 2003 and 2004, the Iranian delegation revealed that Tehran had a military nuclear program but it abandoned it in 2003.
During the past year, while Iran continued reducing its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it has also been blocking access to these sites, both located in the southern outskirts of Tehran.
Following the resolution passed on Friday, Iran's representative to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, characterized the resolution as "non-constructive" and said in a statement in Vienna, that "Iran will show appropriate reaction to the resolution at the right time."
This was exactly the same words used in threats made by Iranian officials including Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during previous days.
Gharibabadi added that the IAEA and its resolution "ignored Iran's cooperation with the agency," adding that such a resolution was "disappointing and regrettable."
"It is regrettable that this resolution has been issued by countries that either own or host nuclear weapons," said Gharibabadi, adding that the June 19 resolution was "the outcome of a US-Israeli initiative to exert pressure on Iran."
According to an AFP report on Friday, "Even though the sites in question are not thought to be directly relevant to Iran's current nuclear programme, the agency says it needs to know if activities going back almost two decades have been properly declared and all materials accounted for."
Nonetheless, the IAEA says it still has the access it needs to inspect Iran's other declared nuclear facilities, based on the deal between Iran and world powers reached in 2015.
The significance of the timing of the resolution is that it has been issued at a time Iran is believed to be in breach of the deal in retaliation for the United States pull-out from the JCPOA in May 2018.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, France and Germany who have been trying to help Iran cope with aftermaths of the U.S. pull-out and the ensuing economic sanctions against Tehran, are expected to define their strategy following the new development and the looming events in October as the United States has been pursuing to prevent the implementation of part of the 2015 deal by extending the arms embargo against Tehran beyond October 2015 when a UN arms embargo is due to expire after five years.
Iran accepted the embargo as well as other conditions in 2015 in return for lifting the sanctions that had crippled the country's economy.
The United states has given a draft resolution to the member states of the UN Security Council and has threatened that if the draft resolution is not ratified, Washington will use the snap-back mechanism in the JCPOA to return all the old sanctions against Iran.
In the meantime, as Iran has stopped fulfilling most of its obligations under the JCPOA, and the move could effectively end the deal, a European diplomat told Reuters that the foreign ministers of the three European partners to the JCPOA, "are meeting to see what Europe can do to end these violations by the Iranians, while keeping the deal, but also to discuss how to avoid a snapback in New York."
Meanwhile, Russia's representative to the IAEA, Mikhael Ulyanov tweetd that Russia and China had voted against the resolution, but added, "While stressing the need for Tehran and IAEA to settle this problem without delay, we believe that the resolution can be counter productive."
Ulyanov called the resolution "non-constructive" but said it is up to Iran and the IAEA to solve this problem immediately. Despite its supportive appearance, the comment means that Russia wants Iran to give access to IAEA inspectors to the two sites in question.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has quoted its sources at the IAEA as saying that the resolution which was also supported by the United States was passed with 25 votes in favour, 2 votes against while 7 delegates abstained.