UK sees thaw with Iran, will reopen embassy
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UK would soon establish a small initial presence in Tehran
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday the country plans to re-open its embassy in Iran two and a half years after a mob ransacked its embassy there.
The embassy was closed in 2011 after hard-liners overran the building and ransacked it.
The announcement comes after the United States, a close ally of Britain, said it could launch air strikes and act jointly with its arch-enemy Iran to shore up the Iraqi government after a rampage by Sunni Islamist insurgents across Iraq that has scrambled alliances in the Middle East.
“I have ... now decided the circumstances are right to reopen our embassy in Tehran,” Hague said in a written statement to parliament. Hague said he had discussed the matter with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday.
The announcement represents another step in the thaw in recent days between Iran and the West. American officials are also looking for common ground with Iran as they seek ways to quell mounting violence in Iraq.
Hague told Parliament he is satisfied that British embassy personnel would be safe in the Iranian capital, Tehran, and that diplomats would be allowed to work without hindrance.
He said “a range of practical issues” have to be resolved before the embassy can begin operations again and full consular services would not be offered at first.
“It is our intention to re-open the embassy in Tehran with a small initial presence as soon as these practical arrangements have been made,” he said. “Inevitably, the initial embassy presence will only able to offer a limited range of services at first. For the time being, Iranians will still need to apply in Abu Dhabi or Istanbul for visas for travel to the U.K. “
Britain and Iran have been in contact in recent days because of shared concerns over mounting violence in Iraq. Iran has sent military officers to Iraq to help coordinate defenses. Britain is sending humanitarian aid to refugees.
Hague said he spoke with Iran's foreign minister Saturday about taking more steps to improve relations.
Hague's announcement is part of a gradual improvement in relations between the two countries since moderate Iranian President Hassan Rowhani came to power in August.
In February, Iran partially reopened its embassy in Britain, offering consular services only. Hague said he expects Iran's government to “take steps” to expand its embassy operation in London.
[With AP and Reuters]