EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday he was optimistic that an Iranian nuclear deal could be reached in “the next few weeks”, as the window to reach a deal closed quickly.
Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have spent months trying to resuscitate the original Iranian nuclear deal, officially known as Plan Joint Global Action Plan (JCPOA), which was put in jeopardy when former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018. Although there was optimism last year about the possibility to reach a new agreement, the talks did not lead to a breakthrough and by Christmas the situation had essentially returned to what it had been in the early summer.
Still, on Friday, Borrell said the most recent talks had seen some progress.
“The atmosphere has improved since Christmas,” he told reporters after an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in the French city of Brest. “I was pessimistic before that, but now I think we can come to an agreement.”
He added that “in the next few weeks I hope to be able to inform you of the final results” of an agreement. “I hope we will be able to secure the deal.”
Speaking alongside Borrell, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said it was “vital” that the negotiations “succeeded”, but he sounded less optimistic warning that the speed of the negotiations is not was not sufficient.
“This negotiation is proceeding too slowly,” said Le Drian. “The choice is to return very quickly to the JCPOA agreement, or [to accept] a new [nuclear] proliferation crisis with Iran.
He added: “Today I am ringing the alarm bell because things are going much too slowly to succeed, and if it continues like this, there will be nothing more to negotiate” because Iran continued its production of fissile material and could soon reach a point where it possesses a nuclear bomb, rendering the purpose of the deal futile.
Under the deal negotiators hope to strike, Iran will have to roll back recent advances in the nuclear program — made after the United States withdrew from the deal — in exchange for widespread US sanctions relief.
Borrell agreed with this warning: “I think we need to speed things up. As the minister said, if Iran becomes a nuclear power, we won’t get anything. We have to bring the United States back into the deal and the Iranians have to comply with it as well. “