- POSTED: 09 Oct 2013 01:26
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Britain and Iran will each appoint a charge d'affaires to work towards resuming ties severed after a mob attacked the British embassy in Tehran in 2011, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday.
LONDON: Britain and Iran will each appoint a charge d'affaires to work towards resuming ties severed after a mob attacked the British embassy in Tehran in 2011, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday.
The diplomats, one level below ambassador, will remain in their respective countries but will look into re-opening the British and Iranian embassies in London and Tehran, Hague told the House of Commons.
The breakthrough follows the election of a new president in Iran, Hassan Rouhani, which has seen a thawing of ties between the Islamic republic and the United States.
Hague met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif twice on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York last month, and spoke on the telephone with him on Monday.
"I've made very clear to Mr Zarif that we are open to more direct contact and further improvements in our bilateral relations," Hague said.
"We have therefore agreed that both our countries will now appoint a non-resident charge d'affaires tasked with implementing the building of relations, including interim steps on the way towards the eventual reopening of both our embassies, as well as dialogue on other issues of mutual concern."
The British minister said the tone of discussions with the Iranians had changed since Rouhani's election in June, but added: "We must not underestimate the difficulties ahead."
"We must test the Iranian government's sincerity to the full, and it is important that our channels of communication are open for that," Hague said.
British and Iranian officials have already met to discuss the numbers and conditions of local staff in their respective embassies, while there will also be visits to inspect the diplomatic missions, Hague said.
Britain ordered Iran's embassy in London to shut after closing its own in Tehran following the storming of the compound by hundreds of Islamist students in November 2011.
They were demonstrating in front of the British embassy to express anger over new Western sanctions adopted against Tehran over its disputed nuclear drive, and then ransacked the building.
Oman currently represents Iranian interests in Britain, while Sweden has taken on similar responsibilities in Tehran.
Hague said: "It is understood on both sides that given this history, progress in our bilateral relationship needs to proceed on a step-by-step and reciprocal basis."
Ties are also improving between Iran and its one-time archfoe, the United States.
Rouhani and President Barack Obama had a telephone conversation last month -- the first such high-level contact since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.