By Robin Emmott and Philip Blenkinsop
LUXEMBOURG, Oct 18 (Reuters) – The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said on Monday he hoped EU and Iranian diplomats would meet soon to discuss a potential return to nuclear talks but declined to confirm reports of a meeting in Brussels on Thursday.
A senior EU official said last week Iran was not ready yet to return to actual talks with world powers over its nuclear programme and related U.S. sanctions but could discuss with the EU in Brussels texts that would later be put forward.
Iran’s Fars news agency said discussions could take place on Thursday, citing a lawmaker on Sunday after a meeting with Iran’s foreign minister. Borrell, speaking as he arrived for an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday, said he was becoming more optimistic.
“No confirmation yet, but things are getting better and I am hopeful we will have preparatory meetings in Brussels in the days to come,” Borrell said in Luxembourg as he arrived for an EU foreign ministers meeting. “You never know, I am more optimistic today than yesterday”.
Western diplomats have said they are concerned Tehran’s new negotiating team – under a president known as an anti-Western hardliner rather than a pragmatist like his predecessor – may make demands beyond the scope of what had already been agreed.
Iran has long denied any ambition to acquire nuclear weapons.
EU political director Enrique Mora, the chief coordinator for the talks, was in Tehran on Thursday to meet Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, four months after talks broke off between Iran and world powers as Ebrahim Raisi was elected Iranian president.
The Iranian establishment has so far refused to resume indirect talks with the United States in Vienna on both sides returning to compliance with the deal, under which Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for economic sanctions relief.
But after Mora’s visit, Iran’s foreign ministry said it would hold talks in the coming days with the EU in Brussels.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott and Phil Blenkinsop; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by John Irish and Philippa Fletcher)