Iran has said it will return to talks with world powers aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear deal by the end of November, the first time it has set a date for the resumption of the long delayed talks.
Iran’s new nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani broke the news on Twitter on Wednesday after holding talks with his EU counterparts in Brussels.
“Had a very serious & constructive dialogue with @enriquemora_ on the essential elements for successful negotiations. We agree to start negotiations before the end of November,” he wrote after meeting EU officials in Brussels.
He added: “Exact date would be announced in the course of the next week.”
The Vienna talks broke off in June at the time of the Iranian presidential elections.
The new hardline president Ebrahim Raisi has been under pressure from nominal allies including Russia to return to the talks, with Moscow’s envoys expressing frustration at Iran’s prevaricating.
The former US president Donald Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal and then reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran that have devastated its economy by squeezing its oil exports.
For months, western powers have urged Iran to return to negotiations and said time is running out as Tehran’s nuclear programme advances well beyond the limits set by the deal.
It appears that the new Iranian regime is likely to reopen some of the issues negotiated in the first round of talks, but it also knows that the US is losing patience, fearing the benefits of returning to the 2015 deal are diminishing.
The US special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, said on Monday that efforts to revive the pact were at a “critical phase” and Tehran’s reasons for avoiding talks were wearing thin.
“America’s return to the deal does not matter to us. What is important is that the outcome of talks be in Iran’s favour,” the Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said in a televised news conference.
Iran has been pressing for undertaking both from the Americans that they will not quit the deal again and from the EU that, if the US does walk out as before, Europe will do more than before to keep the deal alive.
Meanwhile, China was left isolated when countries that border Afghanistan convened in Tehran at a conference that emphasised recognition of the Taliban would be dependent on its leadership forming an inclusive government that respected the rights of women and ethnic minorities.
China, now in close touch with the Taliban, has been placing emphasis on the need for the Taliban to clamp down on terrorism.
If Beijing was manoeuvring towards an early recognition of the Taliban its diplomats would have heard a clear message in Tehran that whatever criticisms countries may have of the US and the humanitarian crisis, they are not prepared to endorse an exclusively Pashtun government that excludes women from society.
Amir-Abdollahian called on the UN secretary general, António Guterres, to try to start a dialogue with the Taliban, adding that the timing for international recognition was “entirely dependent on the steps the government took towards inclusivity”.
The call for the Taliban to live up to their promises were also made by foreign ministers from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Russia and Turkmenistan.
China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, speaking to the conference by video, was less explicit, emphasising the principle of non-interference, and saying the Taliban wanted to reach out to the international community. Wang has held talks with the Taliban in Doha, with China focusing on the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which has been blamed for attacks in Xinjiang province.