United King­dom re­opens em­bassy in Tehran af­ter Iran nu­clear deal

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY ARTHUR MACMIL­LAN

The United King­dom’s for­eign sec­re­tary re­opened his coun­try’s em­bassy in Tehran on Sun­day in a lon­gawaited step sig­nal­ing bet­ter re­la­tions four years af­ter a mob stormed the com­pound, forc­ing its clo­sure.

Philip Ham­mond’s trip comes five weeks af­ter the UK and five other world pow­ers struck a deal with Iran to end a 13-year dis­pute over the Is­lamic re­pub­lic’s dis­puted nu­clear pro­gram.

He en­tered the em­bassy at noon (07:30 GMT) and held a cer­e­mony shortly af­ter­wards in its gar­den with Ajay Sharma, the new charge d’af­faires who will be the UK’s top diplo­mat in Tehran.

Iran’s em­bassy in Lon­don will also re­open on Sun­day. The two coun­tries are ex­pected to ap­point am­bas­sadors in the com­ing months.

Ham­mond was to later hold a press con­fer­ence with Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif, Iran’s for­eign min­is­ter and lead ne­go­tia­tor in the nearly two years of talks that have ended Tehran’s iso­la­tion from the West.

“Ar­rived in #Tehran. First Bri­tish Min­is­te­rial visit since 2003. His­toric mo­ment in UK- Iran re­la­tions,” Ham­mond tweeted.

Euro­pean of­fi­cials have been quick to visit Tehran since July 14, when the nu­clear agree­ment with the UK, main­land China, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia and the United States was an­nounced in Vi­enna.

The deal will see the lift­ing of eco­nomic sanc­tions im­posed on Iran, in ex­change for curbs on its atomic ac­tiv­i­ties.

The deal has sparked a flurry of in­ter­est from coun­tries seek­ing to re-con­nect with the oil-rich Is­lamic re­pub­lic, whose 78 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion is also seen as a largely un­tapped mar­ket for other in­dus­tries.

The thaw be­tween Bri­tain and Iran be­gan with the June 2013 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion vic­tory of Has­san Rouhani, a mod­er­ate who reached out to the West.

“Pres­i­dent Rouhani’s elec­tion and last month’s nu­clear agree­ment were im­por­tant mile­stones. I be­lieve that we have the po­ten­tial to go much fur­ther,” Ham­mond said be­fore his ar­rival.

Fol­low­ing the 2011 em­bassy at­tack, the UK said it could not have hap­pened with­out the tacit con­sent of the Ira­nian regime at the time.

It erupted af­ter Iran’s par­lia­ment voted to ex­pel the Bri­tish am­bas­sador and re­duce trade re­la­tions in re­tal­i­a­tion for sanc­tions against Iran’s bank­ing sec­tor.

Stu­dents ram­paged for hours through the diplo­matic com­pound in down­town Tehran, tear­ing down the Bri­tish flag, rip­ping up pic­tures of Queen El­iz­a­beth II and trash­ing of­fices. Staff were seized by protesters.

Diplo­matic re­la­tions were re­duced to their low­est pos­si­ble level, with Bri­tain ex­pelling Iran’s of­fi­cials.

UK Trade Del­e­ga­tion in Tehran

“Re­open­ing our em­bassies is a key step to im­proved bi­lat­eral re­la­tions,” Ham­mond said.

“In the first in­stance, we will want to en­sure that the nu­clear agree­ment is a suc­cess, in­clud­ing by en­cour­ag­ing trade and in­vest­ment once sanc­tions are lifted.”

He said Lon­don and Tehran should also be ready to dis­cuss chal­lenges in­clud­ing ex­trem­ism, re­gional sta­bil­ity, and the spread of the Is­lamic State ji­hadist group in Syria and Iraq.

“This move does not mean that we agree on ev­ery­thing. But it is right that Bri­tain and Iran should have a pres­ence in each other’s coun­tries,” Ham­mond added.

Plans to re­open the em­bassy were an­nounced in June last year.

Sharma was ap­pointed in a nonres­i­dent po­si­tion in Novem­ber 2013 and has since vis­ited Iran 12 times.

Ham­mond and trea­sury min­is­ter Damian Hinds are vis­it­ing Tehran with a small trade del­e­ga­tion for the two-day visit.

It in­cludes the In­sti­tute of Di­rec­tors, the Bri­tish Bankers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, Shell Up­stream In­ter­na­tional and the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Bri­tish In­dus­try, to dis­cuss fu­ture trade op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Ham­mond fol­lows his Ital­ian, French and Ger­man coun­ter­parts who trav­eled to Iran with busi­ness del­e­ga­tions af­ter the nu­clear deal.

Europe is keen on re­new­ing trade ties with Iran and most coun­tries have diplo­matic rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Tehran.

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