Saturday, 31 March, 2018

Britain to Reopen Embassy in Tehran on Sunday


Britain’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, will formally reopen the UK embassy in Tehran on Sunday, nearly four years after it was shut down.

The Iranian embassy in London will be reopened at the same time, as part of a rapid warming of relations between Iran and the west following the agreement reached on 14 July on the future of the Iranian nuclear programme.

Hammond’s Tehran trip, the first by a British foreign secretary in nearly 12 years, comes soon after visits from the French and Italian foreign ministers, Germany’s vice-chancellor, and the EU’s foreign policy chief, UK newspaper The Guardian reported.

Hammond will be accompanied on his visit by a handful of British business leaders as well as the Foreign Office political director, Sir Simon Gass, who represented Britain in the marathon talks leading up to the July nuclear agreement.

The UK ambassador’s residence and some of the embassy buildings in Tehran have been restored since they were stormed and ransacked in November 2011 by a crowd of activists rallied by hardliners angry at the UK’s imposition of sanctions on Iran.

The reopened British embassy will be staffed initially by a small number of diplomats led by Ajay Sharma, who has been non-resident chargé d’affaires since 2013. A new British ambassador has been chosen but not yet announced.

Hammond’s visit to Tehran represents a significant improvement in bilateral ties as both sides upgrade relations to full diplomatic status.

After Hassan Rouhani became president, Britain and Iran took significant steps towards reopening their missions. David Cameron and Rouhani held a historic phone conversation in November 2013. It was the first direct contact between a British prime minister and an Iranian president in a decade.

In the absence of embassies, about 400,000 Iranian nationals living in the UK, and fewer than 100 UK nationals residing in Iran, have faced difficulties with consular services, such as passport renewal or consular access.

Iran confirms reopening of UK embassy in Tehran on Sunday

An informed source in the Iranian Foreign Ministry confirms reports of the reopening of UK embassy in Tehran, Press TV reports.

The source said on Thursday that the reopening will take place during a visit by UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to Tehran on Sunday.

The reopening of the embassy is seen as the biggest shift in the West’s policies toward Iran following the nuclear conclusion between Tehran and the P5+1 group of countries - the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany - on July 14.

Hammond will be Britain’s first top diplomat to visit the Iranian capital in nearly 14 years. He will reportedly be accompanied on his trip by a number of business leaders.

According to the British media, the Iranian embassy in London will be reopened at the same time. The reports say a new British ambassador has already been chosen but not announced officially.

Iran and Britain severed their diplomatic ties in November 2011. The British embassy was closed after hundreds of Iranian university students staged a protest, pulling down the UK flag and demanding the expulsion of the British ambassador.

Following the incident, Britain announced not only the withdrawal of its diplomatic staff from Tehran but also the closure of the Iranian embassy in London.

In October 2013, Iran and Britain agreed to appoint non-resident chargés d’affaires as a first step toward resuming diplomatic ties.


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