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EU, Iran say ‘preparatory’ nuclear talks in Brussels back on


World powers have been calling for the return of nuclear talks to revive efforts to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA].

Iranian officials and the European Union’s top negotiator will meet in Brussels on Wednesday “to continue our talks on result-oriented negotiations”, Tehran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri tweeted on Monday.

“Iran is determined to engage in negotiations that would remove unlawful and cruel sanctions in a full and effective manner, secure normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran, and provide credible guarantee for no further reneging,” said Bagheri, who became Iran’s new nuclear negotiator in September.

Peter Stano, a spokesman from the EU, confirmed to the AFP on Monday that the bloc’s top negotiator Enrique Mora will be meeting his Iranian counterpart this week for the preparatory talks.

Stano said that the EU was “sparing no efforts to resume talks of all parties in Vienna”.

Iranian officials previously said that talks in Brussels would be held last week. The EU later denied those claims and no such negotiations were held.

Indirect US-Iran talks kicked off in Vienna in April this year to revive the 2015 nuclear accord following Washington’s withdrawal, with both sides expressing their readiness to restore the accord at the time.

The talks in Brussels, the first to take place under the new Ebrahim Raisi administration, are seen as a preparatory step towards discussions in Vienna, which were paused in June ahead of Iran’s presidential elections.

UN nuclear watchdog warns of breakdown in monitoring Iran nuclear sites

The restoration of the JCPOA following the US withdrawal in 2018 has been a priority among members of the P4+1, with parties involved in the accord seeking the resumption of Vienna talks for months.

Commenting on the EU’s role, US State Department Spokesman Ned Price said Washington is “very supportive” of the bloc’s engagement and “the ultimate destination needs to be Vienna”.

The Brussels meetings comes amid increasing concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme. Tehran has ramped up its nuclear enrichment since the US withdrawal from the accord in 2018.

While Western powers saw Iran’s decision to increase production as part of measures to develop nuclear weapons, Tehran claimed the enriched uranium will be be used to produce molybdenum to manufacture radiopharmaceuticals.

Last week, International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] Chief Rafael Grossi told NBC that he had “no indication” that Iran is developing a nuclear bomb.

However, he warned that North Korea serves as an example of the consequences of potential failed diplomacy with Tehran.

“The case of the DPRK should remind us of what may happen if diplomatic efforts go wrong,” said Grossi, noting that there is a possibility for the US to re-engage with North Korea over its nuclear activities.

In 2009, IAEA inspectors were denied access to monitor nuclear sites in North Korea, which has since been developing nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile US envoy on Iran Robert Malley met with members of the E3—Britain, France and Germany—over the weekend to discuss the role of diplomacy in providing “the most effective pathway” on Iran.

In a meeting last week with Khosro Nazeri, the General Secretary of the Economic Cooperation Organization [ECO], Iran’s Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian said Vienna talks would resume “soon”.

Commenting on the Iranian diplomat’s remarks, Russia’s representative at the Vienna talks Mikhail Ulyanov said: “‘Soon’. Does anybody know what it can mean in practical terms?”

In Qatar, officials have been expressing the Gulf state’s support for the resumption of negotiations to restore the JCPOA while offering to mediate between the US and Iran.

US Special Representative for Iran Robert Malley was in Doha on 19 October following a visit to the UAE.

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