The International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran issued a joint statement on Wednesday that they had reached a deal that would enable the UN nuclear watchdog to inspect two disputed nuclear sites.
“After intensive bilateral consultations, Iran and the IAEA reached an agreement on the resolution of the safeguards implementation issues… Iran is voluntarily providing the IAEA with access to the two locations specified by the IAEA and facilitating the IAEA verification activities to resolve these issues,” the statement read.
“Dates for the IAEA access and the verification activities have been agreed,” said the joint statement, while not revealing when the IAEA visits would take place.
Although the IAEA has also demanded that the Islamic Republic clarify the origins of illicit undeclared nuclear material it found when inspecting the Turquzabad site, there was no mention of this in the joint statement.
Rather, the statement said, “In this present context, based on analysis of available information to the IAEA, the IAEA does not have further questions to Iran and further requests for access to locations” besides sites previously declared by Iran.
Further, the joint statement said, “Both sides recognize the independence, impartiality and professionalism of the IAEA continue to be essential in the fulfillment of its verification activities,” and that the agency would “continue to take into consideration Iran’s security concerns.”
The agreement was reached during the visit of IAEA chief Rafael Grossi to Iran and came one day after Iran’s top nuclear official Ali Akbar Salehi said meetings had been constructive.
“Our conversation today was constructive. It was agreed that the agency will carry out its independent and professional responsibilities,” said Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, according to multiple Iranian news agencies.
“A new chapter of cooperation between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency will start.”
The Monday visit was the director-general’s first to the country since he took office last December.
Just prior to the visit, the IAEA said that “during his discussions in Tehran, director Grossi will address the cooperation of Iran with the IAEA, and in particular Iran’s provision of access to the agency’s inspectors to requested locations.
“I have decided to come personally to Tehran so that I can reinforce the importance of cooperation and the full implementation of all safeguards, commitments and obligations with the IAEA,” Grossi said.
“My objective is that my meetings in Tehran will lead to concrete progress in addressing the outstanding questions that the agency has, related to safeguards in Iran, and in particular to resolve the issue of access,” he said, adding that “I also hope to establish a fruitful and cooperative channel of direct dialogue with the Iranian government which will be valuable now and in the future.”
In June, the IAEA Board of Governors issued the first condemnation of Iran in almost a decade for lack of compliance, both in granting access to two disputed nuclear sites and in clearing up the origin of illicit nuclear material found by inspectors at the Turquzabad site.
The Board of Governors’ vote came at Grossi’s request, with the current IAEA chief being more willing to publicly push around the Islamic Republic than his predecessor, Yukiya Amano.
Israeli intelligence officials believe that one reason Grossi is more willing to pressure the ayatollahs is that he was not part of forming the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, whereas Amano viewed the deal as a sacrosanct piece of his legacy.
At the same time, it had been unclear whether Grossi could bring more pressure to bear on Tehran than a public scolding, since the UN Security Council recently rejected US attempts to extend an arms embargo on Iran and is expected to reject its attempts to snap back global sanctions.
Alternatively, Iran may be showing greater flexibility with granting access to the disputed sites, now that it has achieved victories at the Security Council and also has had several additional months to clean up or remove nuclear items it does not want the IAEA to see.
Just prior to the visit, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Behrouz Kamalvandi said the IAEA wanted access to two nuclear sites, one in Tehran and the other near the central Isfahan province.
“We have never said we will not grant access to the agency, but this will happen if such claims end once and for all,” he said, referring to claims that Iran was hiding its nuclear activities.
This seemed to indicate Iran might grant access for guarantees about being left alone in the future regarding any nuclear-archive-related evidence obtained by the Mossad during a raid in 2018.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to respond as of press time.
Reuters contributed to this story.