The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said Saturday that Iran and world powers were "very close" to an agreement to revive their 2015 nuclear deal, which would curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting tough sanctions.
In 2018, then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the pact, and about a year later, Tehran began violating its nuclear limits. About 11 months of on-and-off talks to revive the pact paused in Vienna earlier this month after Russia presented a new obstacle.
Russia later said it had received written guarantees that it would be able to carry out its work as a party to the deal, suggesting Moscow could allow it to be resuscitated.
"Now we are very close to an agreement, and I hope it will be possible," the EU’s Borrell said in an address to the Doha Forum international conference. Borrell later told reporters that he believed a deal could be reached "in a matter of days."
The failure of efforts to restore the pact could carry the risk of a regional war or lead to more harsh Western sanctions on Iran and continued upward pressure on world oil prices that are already high because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, analysts say.
Enrique Mora, the EU coordinator for the nuclear talks, is to meet Iran's chief negotiator Saturday.
There are several difficult issues pending. Iran wants the removal of a U.S. foreign terrorist organization (FTO) designation against its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Saturday that the lifting of U.S. sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards was among Iran's top demands but added that senior Guards officials had said that the deal should not be held up over the issue of sanctions against the Guards if the accord serves the interests of the people.
"But the Guards are among the main institutions in the country... and despite the permission of the Guards officials, this is one of our main issues," Amir-Abdollahian told state TV.
Amir-Abdollahian said this week that a nuclear deal can be reached in the short term if the United States is pragmatic.
But U.S. officials have been more cautious in their assessment of efforts to revive the accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Tehran has also been seeking guarantees that the United States will not unilaterally withdraw from any agreement. The extent to which sanctions would be rolled back is another sensitive subject.