AFP: Britain and Iran on Monday named non-resident charges d’affaires to each other’s capitals, with London’s envoy to visit Tehran this month to start mending ties severed by the ransacking of the British embassy in 2011.
London (AFP)— Britain and Iran on Monday named non-resident charges d’affaires to each other’s capitals, with London’s envoy to visit Tehran this month to start mending ties severed by the ransacking of the British embassy in 2011.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the decision to name envoys was made after he met his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme in Geneva at the weekend.
“He and I took the opportunity to discuss further the bilateral relationship between Britain and Iran, and today both our governments have formally appointed our new Charge d’affaires,” Hague said in a statement to parliament on the nuclear talks.
“I expect the new UK Charge to make his first visit to Iran this month.”
The British Foreign Office had earlier Monday named Ajay Sharma as its new non-resident charge d’affaires — a diplomatic post that is one level below ambassador — and minutes later Iran named its envoy as Mohammad Hassan Habibollah-zadeh.
Britain ordered the closure of Iran’s embassy in London after closing its own in Tehran following the storming of the compound by hundreds of angry Islamist students in November 2011.
They were protesting at Western sanctions against Tehran over its disputed nuclear drive, and ransacked the building as well as the British ambassador’s residence in north Tehran.
The British diplomat said it was “very much in the interests of both our countries” to renew ties.
“I am very much looking forward to renewing direct UK contact with the Iranian government and society,” Sharma said in a statement, confirming that he hoped to visit Tehran later this month.
The Iranian foreigh ministry was quoted by Fars news agency as saying that Habibollah-zadeh “will travel to London in the near future to examine the situation of Iran’s possessions and buildings in Britain and to improve consular activities.”
Sharma worked as deputy head of Britain’s Tehran mission between 2007 and 2008 and has held additional diplomatic posts in Moscow, Paris, London and Ankara.
The Foreign Office said Sharma would travel to Iran regularly and described his appointment as “an important step towards improving the bilateral relationship”.
“Mr Sharma’s appointment will enable the UK to have more detailed and regular discussions with Iran on a range of issues, including conditions under which our embassies could eventually be reopened,” it added.
The two sides agreed in October to assign non-resident charges d’affaires.
The surprise victory in June elections of moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani as Iranian president with a pledge to engage the world constructively has prompted London and Tehran to work towards restoring ties.
As well as their talks in Geneva at the weekend, Hague and Zarif also met twice on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September.
The nuclear talks broke up without an agreement but Hague said on Monday there was “no doubt in my mind” that a deal could be reached.
He paid tribute to Zarif as a “tough but constructive negotiator who displayed a sincere and open approach throughout the talks.”
Hague said the Geneva talks had focused on finding an “interim, first-step agreement” involving limited sanctions relief before moving on to a permanent deal.