The European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, says he hopes the bloc’s diplomats will meet their Iranian counterparts in the coming days as part of continued efforts to revive the faltering 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
"You never know, I am more optimistic today than yesterday," Borrell said on October 18, a day after an Iranian lawmaker, Ahmad Alirezabeigui, quoted Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on October 17 as saying that talks with Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany will restart in the Belgian capital on October 21.
"No confirmation yet, but things are getting better and I hope we will have preparatory meetings in Brussels in the days to come," Borrell told journalists as he arrived for an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg.
The 2015 agreement that offered Tehran the lifting of some international sanctions in exchange for a ramping down of its nuclear enrichment program was left in tatters after then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States unilaterally from the pact in 2018 and started reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran. In response, Tehran has progressively rolled back its own commitments to the deal.
Indirect negotiations on both sides returning to compliance with the deal, via intermediaries from other parties to the accord (Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia), were launched in Vienna six month ago, but the talks were suspended following the June election of hard-line Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Last week, EU envoy Enrique Mora was in Tehran to press for a firm date for resuming talks.
Following his meeting with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, who is in charge of the nuclear file for Iran, the Foreign Ministry said the sides had “agreed to continue dialogue on questions of mutual interest in the coming days in Brussels."
U.S. President Joe Biden, who took office in January, has signaled a willingness to return to the nuclear deal, which was designed to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only.
Iranian officials have repeatedly said they were ready to resume talks "soon," but no date has yet been announced.
During his visit to Washington last week, Borrell agreed with the U.S. administration to “continue to work to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program and to uphold the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, as well as the need to return to the Vienna talks soon,” the EU top diplomat said in a blog post .