The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced on Saturday during a surprise trip to Tehran that talks on restarting the Iranian nuclear deal, which have been deadlocked for three months, will resume within days.
“In the coming days, we will pick up the JCPOA negotiations… I mean quickly, right away,” Borrell said in reference to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action during a press conference in the Iranian capital.
On the second day of an unannounced visit to the Islamic Republic, Borrell made the announcement following a two-hour meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.
According to AFP, Amir-Abdollahian confirmed that the talks have resumed.
Amir-Abdollahian stated, “We have had a lengthy but fruitful conversation on global cooperation between Iran and the EU.
Through the soon-to-resume negotiations, we will try to resolve the issues and disagreements.
In 2018, former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the agreement and started putting America’s longtime foe under crippling economic sanctions.
The administration of US President Joe Biden has pushed for a return to the agreement, claiming that it would be the best course of action with Iran.
As a result of disagreements between Tehran and Washington, particularly over Iran’s demand that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be removed from a US terrorist list, talks that had started in April of last year came to a halt in March.
In order to conclude the stalled efforts to revive the nuclear deal, Middle East Eye reported over the weekend that Tehran has dropped its demand that the IRGC be removed from the list in exchange for sanctions relief.
Enrique Mora, the EU’s coordinator for the talks, reported that on the eve of Borrell’s trip, Robert Malley, the key US negotiator on Iran, said he had “reiterated firm US commitment to come back to the deal” over a meal with the EU’s top diplomat.
Malley stated in a tweet, “We remain committed to the path of meaningful diplomacy, in consultation with our European partners.
One of the six nations that endorsed the 2015 agreement, France, had urged Iran on Friday to “take advantage of this diplomatic opportunity to conclude now, while this is still possible.”
On Thursday, Amir-Abdollahian stated that Iran was “serious” about reaching a deal and urged “realism from the American side.”
In exchange for guarantees that Iran couldn’t develop an atomic weapon, six major powers—Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the US—agreed to lift sanctions on the country.
Iran has consistently denied having nuclear weapons on hand.
Backing out of the agreement was still, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “the best way to address the nuclear challenge posed by Iran,” in April.
Blinken cautioned at the time that after the deal extended the “breakout time” past a year, Iran could still choose to develop a nuclear weapon in “a matter of weeks.”
This month, the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency passed a resolution denouncing Iran for failing to adequately respond to the earlier discovery of traces of enriched uranium at three locations that Tehran had not declared to have hosted nuclear activities.
Tehran declared on the same day, June 8, that it had turned off several IAEA cameras that had been watching over its nuclear sites.
Rafael Grossi, the director of the IAEA, later confirmed that 27 cameras had been deactivated, leaving about 40 in place.
He cautioned that unless the UN nuclear watchdog’s inspectors were granted access within three to four weeks, Iran’s move could deal a “fatal blow” to the negotiations.
The outcome of the agreement may depend on Borrell’s visit, which will be his first to Tehran since February 2020.
Iran has repeatedly demanded assurances from the Biden administration that the Trump pullout won’t happen again during the Vienna talks aimed at reviving the agreement.