EU's Borrell 'less confident' about closing Iran nuclear deal

Whole process is in danger, says EU foreign policy chief

Foreign policy chief Josep Borrell at an EU-Ukraine Association Council meeting in Brussels. AFP
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The European Union’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell played down on Monday hopes of a rapid revival of the Iran nuclear deal, saying the chances of an agreement between Tehran and world powers have faded.

“I am sorry to say that I am less confident today than 28 hours before about the convergence of the negotiation process, about the prospect of closing the deal right now,” Mr Borrell told reporters in Brussels.

“If the process doesn’t converge, the whole process is in danger.”

The EU and other world powers have been in direct negotiations with Iran — with the US participating indirectly — for more than a year to revive a 2015 accord that eased sanctions on Tehran in return for it curbing nuclear activities.

Former US president Donald Trump reneged on the 2015 deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran, which resumed nuclear activities.

A deal, stringently opposed by Israel and many members of the US Congress, could weigh on oil prices, as it would allow Iran to ramp up production.

Mr Borrell said that he would “keep consulting with [nuclear deal] participants, in particular by the US, because it’s a request that has to be fulfilled by the US in particular — not the only one — on how to proceed”.

He did not elaborate on the request.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said on Monday that Tehran is seeking the closure of the International Atomic Energy Agency's investigation into its nuclear activities among other guarantees before agreeing to revive the 2015 deal.

Iran's demand risks hurting the chances of saving the deal because Washington has rejected linking it to the UN agency's investigation.

The US State Department said last week that it had studied Iran’s response to the latest effort to revive the deal and would respond through the EU but “unfortunately, it is not constructive”.

The response was sent via Mr Borrell, who has been co-ordinating the negotiations, and made a final offer on August 8 after 16 months of talks.

Mr Borrell on Monday described the offer as a “carefully balanced text taking into account all positions of all parties”.

“At a certain moment, my responsibility as co-ordinator is to say that’s enough, this is most balanced text that I can produce, taking in account all points of views,” said Mr Borrell, speaking after an EU-Ukraine Association Council meeting.

“This text was very well received and I got positive feedback from all partners.

“The initial requests that I received were reasonable from both parts and they were taken on board without altering the text fundamentally, but then the last interaction is not converging, it’s diverging.”

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: September 05, 2022, 8:35 PM