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Iran, Britain Reopen Embassies

Source: RFE/RL; photos by Islamic Republic News Agency & Mehr News Agency

cartoon by Farshid Rajabali, Ghanoon daily

Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has reopened the British embassy in Tehran, four years after Iranian protesters stormed the building and forced its closure.

In a historic step in the thawing of relations between Tehran and Western powers, Hammond on August 23 declared the British embassy open and raised the Union Jack flag within the garden of the 19th century residence in the heart of Tehran.

The gate of British embassy in Tehran

Hammond and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif were due to hold a joint press conference in Tehran later the same day.

In a statement issued from London before he left for Tehran, Hammond said relations had "improved since 2011."

Meanwhile, Iran's state-controlled ISNA news agency said on August 23 that the Iranian Embassy in London was simultaneously reopened in London.

Hammond said the embassies initially would function at the charge d'affaires level, but ambassadors should be agreed within months.

The United Kingdom expelled Iranian diplomats from London after a mob in 2011 broke into the British Embassy in Tehran and ransacked the premises.

The reopening of the two countries' embassies comes after Iran and six major world powers reached an agreement on Tehran's nuclear development program in July that allows the gradual lifting of international sanctions on Iran.

While in Tehran, Hammond also met with Valiollah Seif, the governor of the Central Bank of Iran. With the recent thaw in diplomatic relations, the foreign minister said Britain wants to work with Iran's central bank to make it easier for banks in the United Kingdom to finance trade and investment in the Persian Gulf country.​

He said there is a "huge appetite" on the part of British commercial and industrial businesses to engage in Iran if sanctions are lifted under the nuclear deal agreed last month.

Hammond said Britain's financial institutions want to support that activity "but it must be done in the proper way."

Seif said Iran and Britain had a positive relationship in the past and could build on those experiences. 

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP

Copyright (c) 2015 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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