EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says he is "ready" to meet Iranian leaders in Brussels as part of efforts to revive the faltering 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, while warning that "time is pressing."
Borrell made the comments on October 15, a day after EU envoy Enrique Mora was in Tehran to press for a firm date for resuming talks on the agreement, which offered Tehran the lifting of some international sanctions in exchange for a ramping down of its nuclear enrichment program.
The pact 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), began in Vienna six months ago, but the talks were suspended following the June election of hard-line Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
After Mora met in Tehran 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."
"I know that the Iranians want to have some kind of previous talks with me as coordinator and with some members of the board of the JCPOA," Borrell told journalists during a visit to Washington, referring to the formal name of the deal: the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
"I cannot tell you a precise date. I am ready to receive them, if needed," said Borrell, who met a day earlier with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
"Time is pressing," the EU diplomatic chief said, adding that the new government in Tehran had had enough time to study the file and instruct its negotiating team.
Borrell added that he did not think talks in Brussels were absolutely necessary but that he had to be willing to be somewhat "patient on this issue, because we cannot afford to fail."
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.