The Argentine diplomat, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is expected this week with his teams at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant occupied by the Russians.
He himself led the “hardest mission in the history” of the international organization. Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), announced on Monday that he and a dozen people were on their way to southern Ukraine.
Destination: the Zaporijjia nuclear power plant, occupied for several months by the Russian army which is continuing its offensive, more than six months after the start of the invasion of the country.
“The day has come, the IAEA mission to Zaporizhia is now on its way. We must protect the security of Ukraine and the largest nuclear power plant in Europe,” the Argentine diplomat tweeted, adding that he was “proud to carry out this mission which will be at the plant later this week”.
Arrived in 2019 at the head of the agency attached to the UN, this sexagenarian has worked for a long time within the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with international organizations in Vienna.
An arrival in the midst of the Iran-United States crisis
Presented on the IAEA website as a diplomat “with more than 35 years of experience in the field of non-proliferation and disarmament”, his appointment as head of the agency is a small revolution in the sense that he is the first Latin American to lead it.
The organization founded in 1957 is not unknown to him since he previously held the position of Deputy Director General and Chief of Staff between 2010 and 2013. He will then drop his bags at the Argentine Embassy in Austria . Now the sixth director general of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi succeeded Japanese Yukiya Amano in 2019, who held the position for nearly ten years.
Three first years during which the Argentinian had to work on a completely different diplomatic aspect in particular: the American-Iranian crisis of the end of 2019-beginning of 2020 which occurs only one year after the withdrawal of the United States from the Vienna agreement decided by Donald Trump.
Two and a half years later, it is clear that the time has come for relaxation and cooperation with Tehran. Rafael Grossi said last week to our colleagues from France 24 optimistic about a new agreement between Iranians and Westerners. The ball is now in the court of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi who does not wish to relaunch the agreement without the closure of the IAEA investigation into traces of enriched uranium discovered on undeclared sites in Iran. Finally, the Israeli authorities are urging their American allies not to resuscitate the Vienna agreement.
“All the technical aspects have been more or less resolved, it’s a question of political will”, explained last week the head of the IAEA, judging that an agreement “is not far”.
Zaporijjia, “an unprecedented situation” for the diplomat
Still with our colleagues from France 24, the director of the IAEA estimated that “the risks are real” in Zaporijjia, a plant occupied by Russian forces but still operated by Ukrainians.
If the Kremlin claims to have been waiting for this IAEA mission “for a long time” and considers it “necessary”, the Ukrainian operator Energoatom nevertheless affirmed that the Russian forces, “preparing for the arrival of the IAEA mission, put pressure on plant personnel to prevent them from revealing evidence of the occupier’s crimes”.
“An unprecedented situation” for Rafael Grossi who is playing the diplomatic card between kyiv and Moscow and wants to “see what is happening and see if it is true or not”.
Beyond the inventory and the repairs to be carried out within the nuclear complex, the IAEA also intends to ensure “a continuous presence” in Zaporijjia. A way for Rafael Grossi to mark a great diplomatic coup when his mandate is due to end in 2023.