The European Union has said no talks are scheduled to take place with Iran in Brussels on October 21 on resuming negotiations over the 2015 nuclear deal, contradicting a declaration made by Iran's Foreign Ministry.
"There will not be a meeting Thursday," Nabila Massrali, a spokeswoman for EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell, told AFP on October 18. "At this stage we cannot confirm if or when a meeting will take place," she said.
The announcement came after Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters on October 18 that Iran's lead nuclear negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, would go to Brussels on October 21 for talks with representatives from Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany on reviving the faltering 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
Earlier on October 18, Borrell voiced hope that the bloc's diplomats will meet their Iranian counterparts in the coming days but stopped short of announcing a precise date.
"You never know, I am more optimistic today than yesterday," Borrell said on October 18.
"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 met with Bagheri in Tehran to press for a firm date for resuming talks.
After the talks, the Iranian 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.