TEHRAN, Iran – Iran agreed Sunday to allow international inspectors to install new memory cards into surveillance cameras at its sensitive nuclear sites and to continue filming there, potentially averting a diplomatic showdown this week.
The announcement by Mohammad Eslami of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran after a meeting he held with the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, in Tehran still leaves the watchdog in the same position it has faced since February, however.
Tehran holds all recordings at its sites as negotiations over the U.S. and Iran returning to the 2015 nuclear deal remain stalled in Vienna. Meanwhile, Iran is now enriching small amounts of uranium to its closest-ever levels to weapons-grade purity as its stockpile continues to grow.
“We had a major, major communication breakdown with Iran, which, of course, is something we cannot afford, having so many important issues that we need to solve,” Grossi told reporters on his return from Tehran. “And I think that was solved.”
Eslami described the negotiations between Iran and the Vienna-based IAEA as “sheerly technical” without any room for politics. He said Grossi would return to Iran soon to talk with officials, without elaborating. Also left unsaid was whether Iran would hand over copies of older recordings, which Tehran had threatened previously to destroy.
“The memory cards are sealed and kept in Iran, according to the routine,” Eslami said. “New memory cards will be installed in cameras. That is a routine and natural trend in the agency's monitoring system.”
A joint statement released by the IAEA and Iran confirmed the understanding, saying only that “the way and the timing are agreed by the two sides.”
Grossi said the agreement would ensure “continuity of knowledge” that would ensure the watchdog can piece together the data it needs in future.