11:18 pm - Tuesday November 10, 2015

‘Historic moment’ as Britain reopens embassy in Iran after four years

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Tehran: In a significant development that marks immense improvement in Iran-West relations, United Kingdom on Sunday reopened embassy in Tehran.

The embassy was closed in 2011 after hardliners angry over imposition of sanctions had stormed the compound, smashing windows and burning British flags.

To mark the reopening of the UK embassy, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond arrived in Tehran with Iranian diplomats and called it a historic moment in UK-Iran relations as it is the first British Ministerial visit since 2003.Britain has had no diplomatic presence in Tehran since hard-liners protesting the imposition of international sanctions stormed it in November 2011, but the election of President Hassan Rouhani and the recent nuclear deal between Iran and world powers have brought about a significant diplomatic thaw.

“Four years on from an attack on the British Embassy, I am today re-opening it,” Hammond said in a prepared statement. “Our relationship has improved since 2011. President Rouhani’s election and last month’s nuclear agreement were important milestones. I believe that we have the potential to go much further.”

Terrorism, regional stability and the spread of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq are among the challenges Britain and Iran should be prepared to work together on, Hammond said.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed the reopening of the British Embassy, saying it showed Iran’s regional and global significance.

“The world has realized Iran’s constructive role in the region and the globe,” state TV quoted Zarif as saying Sunday. “Of course, we have differences with some European countries but that can be negotiated through interaction, open eyes and a realistic approach.”

Hammond and the new British charge d’affaires, Ajay Sharma, were attending the embassy reopening ceremony together with representatives of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Foreign Office said.

Hammond was also accompanied by a small British trade delegation to discuss possible future trade opportunities following last month’s nuclear deal, the ministry added.

The British Embassy would initially have a small number of staff with limited consular services, but officials expect to upgrade its leadership to full ambassador status in coming months.

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