In confirming Monday their diplomats would meet in Brussels to review Iran’s stalled nuclear talks, EU foreign policy chief and Iran’s foreign ministry did not name a day.

For the European Union, Josep Borrell declined to confirm reports − citing an Iranian parliamentarian − that the meeting would be Thursday.

In Tehran, Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman of the foreign ministry, said that after a “constructive” visit last Thursday by Enrique Mora, the EU political director who coordinates the Vienna talks, Iran’s discussions with Europe would “continue in a few days in Brussels.”

The Vienna talks began in April but were suspended in June pending the Iranian presidential election and transition, but since then Iran has refused to return to negotiations. Aiming to restore Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers (the JCPOA, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), the talks failed to agree which United States sanctions needed to be lifted for Washington to return to the deal, which it left it 2018, and how Iran should bring its nuclear program back within JCPOA limits.

Neither the EU nor Iran has explained why they intend to liaise in Brussels. The Vienna talks formally involve all remaining parties to the JCPOA – China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, and the United Kingdom – with the US taking part indirectly.

Asked about the future of the process as he arrived for an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg Monday, Borrell said he was “more optimistic today than yesterday.”

"No confirmation yet, but things are getting better and I am hopeful we will have preparatory meetings in Brussels in the days to come," he said.

New arrangement

In Tehran Khatibzadeh confirmed that the foreign ministry would continue to lead Iran’s diplomacy on the nuclear issue but with “a new arrangement.”

Asked if Ali Bagheri-Kani would take over the role as lead negotiator of Abbas Araghchi, whom he has replaced as a deputy foreign minister under President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi), Khatibzadeh confirmed Bagheri-Kani would lead the Iranian side in Brussels.

“Mr Bagheri will in his first opportunity present his views [opinions] to the European side,” Khatibzadeh explained.

A growing sense of urgency in European over the negotiations result results partly from concerns that the Raisi administration, which includes long-term critics of the JCPOA, will toughen Iran’s approach and partly from the experience Iran is gaining with an expanded nuclear program, which could undermine the non-proliferation calculations underpinning the 2015 agreement.

Khatibzadeh insisted that the onus in the nuclear talks lay in Washington. He also expressed Iran’s concerns over the value of any US commitments, given previous US president Donald Trump left the JCPOA unilaterally in 2018 and imposed ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions.

“All talk has been aimed at bringing back the US without preconditions to commitment to 2231,” he said, citing the United Nations Security Council resolution that endorsed the JCPOA.

“Our main goal is to make sure that all sanctions are ended and that decisions cannot be changed by anyone in Washington and there will be no games played against us. This can be achieved only in concrete talks.”

Discussions in Brussels, the spokesman said, would consider “the challenges and obstacles that were not bought to a conclusion (resolved) in Vienna.”

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