British embassy to reopen in Iran
British Foreign Minister William Hague (left) pictured with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zari in 2013 (File/AFP)
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The British embassy in Iran is to reopen as part of moves to rebuild links with Tehran in response to the war raging in neighbouring Iraq.
William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said the “circumstances are right” to re-establish the diplomatic mission in the Iranian capital. It was closed in November 2011 after protesters stormed the building and ransacked offices.
Britain and other western nations have been attempting to improve relations with the Tehran government in recent months.
There is a now a significant shared common interest between the countries as Sunni extremists under the Isis banner advance across northern Iraq, putting the survival of Iraq’s Shia-dominated government in jeopardy. More than 90 per cent of Iranians follow the Shia branch of Islam.
In a statement this morning, Mr Hague said: “Our two primary concerns when considering whether to reopen our embassy in Tehran have been assurance that our staff would be safe and secure, and confidence they would be able to carry out their functions without hindrance.
“There has never been any doubt in my mind that we should have an embassy in Tehran if the circumstances allowed.
“Iran is an important country in a volatile region and maintaining embassies around the world, even under difficult conditions, is a central pillar of the UK's global diplomatic approach.”
He did not give a precise date for the embassy to reopen, saying there would be a “small initial presence” as soon as “practical arrangements have been made”.
The initiative comes after Mr Hague held talks at the weekend with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.
In a statement to the Commons yesterday, Mr Hague said Britain shared “important common interests with Iran”, including stability in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He made clear Britain would not join military action against Isis fighters, but said the United States was “looking at all options”. He announced that Britain had dispatched a team of counter-terrorism experts to help the Iraqi forces.
By Nigel Morris