The European Union foreign policy chief travels to Tehran today in the latest effort to restart talks aimed at restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The EU announced the two-day trip of Josep Borrell as part of his role as “co-ordinator of the JCPOA,” referring to the 2015 deal in his official title as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Year-long talks in Vienna over reviving the JCPOA paused without success in March, reportedly due to disagreement between the United States and Iran, including over Washington listing Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a ‘foreign terrorist organization.’
“Diplomacy is the only way to go back to full implementation of the deal and to reverse current tensions,” Borrell tweeted.
The EU foreign policy chief is due to meet Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who has just hosted Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Tehran. “Bilateral relations, regional and international issues, as well as the latest status of sanctions lifting will be discussed during the visit, which is part of the ongoing consultations between Iran and the European Union,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said.
European officials have expressed impatience over the impasse in the Vienna talks, while Russia, which has always voiced support for the JCPOA, may want to avert another crisis as it copes with the consequences of the Ukraine war.
While US President Joe Biden came into office committed to restore the JCPOA, from which his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew the US in 2018, he has kept in place Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions and his officials have rejected Iran’s request to remove all sanctions introduced by Trump, including the IRGC listing.
Biden has also, partly in an effort to persuade Saudi Arabia to pump more oil and ease upward pressure on US gasoline prices, softened his previously critical approach to Riyadh, especially over human rights and the Yemen war. Both JCPOA opponents, Saudi Arabia and Israel want US support for great military co-operation, including air defense, against Iran and its regional allies.
Welcoming Borrell’s visit, Iran’s official news agency IRNA quoted Peter Stano, the EU’s lead spokesperson on foreign affairs, that the trip was part of continuing efforts to achieve “full implementation” of the JCPOA.
There has been a raft of speculation – briefing and counter-briefing– that Iran is ready to soften its stance over the IRGC listing in order to ease sanctions through restoring the JCPOA. While Iran has not let up on efforts to expand trade with Russia and Asia, and is benefiting from the rising price of oil, the Iranian rial Friday hovered around 320,000 to the dollar, showing no market optimism over JCPOA revival.