Borrell of EU “optimistic” about possible new talks with Iran
The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said on Monday he hoped EU and Iranian diplomats would meet soon to discuss a possible return to nuclear talks, but declined to confirm reports of ‘a meeting in Brussels on Thursday.
A senior EU official said last week that Iran was not yet ready to resume meaningful talks with world powers over its nuclear program and related US sanctions, but that it could discuss with the EU texts in Brussels which would then be presented. Iran’s Fars news agency said talks could take place on Thursday, citing a lawmaker on Sunday after a meeting with Iran’s foreign minister. Borrell, speaking as he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday, said he was becoming more optimistic.
“No confirmation yet, but things are improving and I hope we will have preparatory meetings in Brussels in the days to come,” Borrell said in Luxembourg as he arrived for a meeting of foreign ministers from the EU. “You never know, I am more optimistic today than yesterday”. Western diplomats said they feared Tehran’s new negotiating team – led by a president known to be an anti-Western hardline supporter rather than pragmatic like his predecessor – might make demands beyond the scope of what had already been agreed.
Some also say they fear Iran is trying to buy time by talking to the EU rather than all parties to the deal, including the United States. Iran has long denied any ambition to acquire nuclear weapons and accused the United States of unfair treatment.
EU political director Enrique Mora, chief coordinator of the talks, was in Tehran on Thursday to meet with the Iranian nuclear negotiating team, four months after talks between Iran and world powers broke down as Ebrahim Raisi was elected Iranian president. The Iranian establishment has so far refused to resume indirect talks with the United States in Vienna on both sides reverting to respect for the deal, under which Iran has limited its nuclear program in return for relief economic sanctions.
The deal effectively collapsed after former US President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018 and Tehran resumed building its stockpile of enriched uranium. French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said on Monday that Paris had not been informed of any meeting in Brussels later this week and insisted that such a meeting could not replace the talks in Vienna.
“These exchanges cannot replace the negotiations in Vienna with the other participants in the JCPoA and the United States,” she told reporters. “These negotiations were halted at Tehran’s request four months ago now, and Iran has yet to commit to a date for their resumption.”
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