Iran nuclear deal ‘in danger’, says EU chief negotiator

The EU’s foreign policy chief said efforts to strike a new deal on Iran’s nuclear program are “at risk” after US and Iranian positions diverged in recent days.

Josep Borrell, who is chairing indirect talks between Washington and Tehran on reviving the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), said on Monday he was losing confidence in reaching an agreement.

In his most pessimistic remarks since sending the two sides a “final draft” of a possible deal last month, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy said: “Positions are not closer… If the process does not converge, then the whole process is in danger.

“I’m sorry to say that I’m less confident today than [48] a few hours ago about the convergence of the negotiation process and the prospect of concluding the agreement,” he added.

After months of intense indirect negotiations between the United States and Iran in Vienna, the EU submitted a draft agreement in August, raising hopes that a deal had been reached.

But Tehran and Washington have since submitted responses to the text, with the two sides clashing over the status of an investigation into Iran’s nuclear program by the UN’s atomic watchdog and Iran’s demand that states States guarantee that it will continue to receive the economic benefits of sanctions relief. if the case falls apart later.

The JCPOA all but collapsed in 2018 when former US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned it and imposed hundreds of sanctions on Iran. His successor Joe Biden took office pledging to join the deal and lift numerous sanctions if Iran, which enriches uranium to near weapons-grade levels, returns to abiding by the deal. .

“At some point my responsibility as coordinator is to say ‘enough is enough, this is the most balanced text I can produce taking into account all viewpoints’,” Borrell said of the project. of text.

“Then we started a process of interactions. . . an interactive process is good if it converges,” he added. “They were converging on a closer position. But then the last interactions were not converging. It was divergent. »

After receiving Iran’s response last week, US officials were optimistic about possible progress in the talks. US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel called it “unconstructive”.

Officials said they did not expect any breakthrough soon and the process could extend beyond the US midterm elections in November.

National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said gaps remained between the two sides. The president will only enter into an agreement that he deems to be in the national security interest of the United States,” she said.

Tehran has said it is ready to sign an agreement immediately if its two main demands are met. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said last week that the Islamic Republic should be able to “objectively and practically verify” that the United States has lifted sanctions “in a sustainable manner”. He also said that the International Atomic Energy Agency should set aside its “politically motivated claims”.

While many Iranians believe the deal is necessary to boost the economy, hardline politicians argue Western states need a deal to allow Iranian crude to return to the market.

Mohammad Marandi, an adviser to Iran’s negotiating team, said over the weekend that “Iran will not accept ambiguities or gaps in the text. Winter is approaching and the EU is facing a crippling energy crisis”. “Iran will be patient,” he added.

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