EU envoy Enrique Mora visits Iran amid push for talks on nuclear deal

Negotiations were paused in June, when the Iranian presidential election was held

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The EU official who has led talks on reviving the Iran nuclear deal will visit Tehran on Thursday, months after negotiations over the 2015 accord were paused.

Iran’s foreign ministry said Enrique Mora’s visit would be “a follow-up to consultations between the two sides on matters of shared interest, particularly Iran-EU relations, Afghanistan and the nuclear agreement”.

The deal gave Iran sanctions relief in return for limits on its nuclear programme, but has in effect been void since former US president Donald Trump withdrew from it and reimposed heavy economic measures.

In response, Tehran has repeatedly breached the limits set out by the accord, and its nuclear programme has yielded higher quantities of enriched uranium.

The nuclear deal also gave international monitors unprecedented access to Iranian nuclear facilities, but that oversight has been limited since February.

Talks in Vienna between Iran and the remaining parties to the agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — have been on hold since the Iranian presidential election in June that led to the election of Ebrahim Raisi.

“Consultations and contacts between the two sides have never been halted and are constantly ongoing on different issues, and this trip also takes place in the same framework,” the Iranian foreign ministry said, referring to Mr Mora’s visit.

Tehran has been seeking European guarantees that there will be no repetition of Mr Trump’s unilateral withdrawal, and it wants the removal of sanctions.

“The European capitals, including Berlin … must give their clear assurance to the Islamic republic that this time, no party will violate the nuclear deal,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

Pressure has been building from EU signatories to the deal and Washington for the talks to resume.

“The message to Iran is unequivocal: return to the negotiating table immediately,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to Israel.

Iran has accused Israel of attacking its Natanz nuclear facility, a key place for uranium enrichment.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said two weeks ago that “the ball remains in their court, but not for long”.

“There is a limited runway on that, and the runway is getting shorter.”

Although President Raisi is an ultraconservative, he has signalled that he backs diplomacy to end sanctions.

Updated: October 13, 2021, 2:00 PM