In the latest sign of Iran's thawing relations with its old enemies in the West, the British government announced today that it had agreed with Tehran to appoint a London-based diplomatic liaison whose task would be to work toward repairing relations between the countries, including plans for an eventual reopening of embassies.
However, British officials stressed, "the UK will not have a diplomatic presence in Tehran until we are confident our staff will be safe and able to carry out the full range of functions."
Here's the statement from the British Embassy in Washington:
Today in a statement to Parliament, Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that the UK and Iran have agreed to appoint non-resident Chargé d’affaires tasked with implementing the building of relations, including interim steps on the way towards eventual re-opening embassies.
“There is no doubt that the tone of the meetings with them is different,” he said “We must test the Iranian Government’s sincerity to the full, and it is important that our channels of communication are open for that.”
And here are Hague's remarks before the House of Commons:
“It is clear that the new President and Ministers in Iran are presenting themselves and their country in a much more positive way than in the recent past. There is no doubt that the tone of the meetings with them is different. We must test the Iranian Government’s sincerity to the full, and it is important that our channels of communication are open for that.
“Mr Zarif [Iranian Foreign Minister] and I have discussed how to improve the functioning of the UK-Iran bilateral relationship. Our diplomatic relations suffered a severe setback when our Embassy compounds in Tehran were overrun in 2011 and the Vienna Convention flouted, and when the Iranian Majles voted to downgrade relations with the UK.
“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. The Foreign Minister and I agreed our officials would meet to discuss this. The first such meeting has already taken place, and will be followed by a further meeting in Geneva next week. This includes discussion of numbers of and conditions for locally-engaged staff in the Embassy premises of each country and visits to inspect these premises.
“I have made very clear to Mr Zarif that we are open to more direct contact and further improvements in our bilateral relationship. We have therefore agreed that both our countries will now appoint a non-resident Chargé d’affaires tasked with implementing the building of relations, including interim steps on the way towards eventual re-opening of both our Embassies, as well as dialogue on other issues of mutual concern.”