London, Asharq Al-Awsat—As Iran and the P5+1 group of nations agreed on a framework for future nuclear talks on Thursday, the Iranian consulate in London reopened its doors after more than two years of sustained diplomatic tensions between Britain and the Islamic Republic.
Despite the framework agreement, little progress was made during the talks regarding what concessions Tehran must offer for sanctions relief. But the British Foreign Office announced on Thursday that the Iranian consulate—but not the Embassy—has reopened its doors and will resume dealing with issues relating to visas and commercial affairs.
The British Foreign Office said: “The UK has agreed with Iran that from today [Thursday] bilateral relations will be conducted through non-resident chargés d’affaires and officials. This is the next stage of the step-by-step process of taking forward our bilateral relationship with Iran.”
The reopening marks the end of the “protecting power” arrangement that saw Sweden working on Britain’s behalf in Iraq, and Oman working on Iran’s behalf in the UK.
The British Foreign Office confirmed that “we will no longer have protecting powers acting as intermediaries. Diplomatic contact will now be more direct between our two countries.”
“As we do not have a permanent presence on the ground, we will still require occasional support from EU missions in Tehran, including Sweden, particularly on urgent consular matters,” the Foreign Office added.
Iran and the P5+1 group of nations are set to meet next on March 17 for the next round of nuclear negotiations. A joint statement issued yesterday and read out by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton confirmed that “we have .#160;.#160;. identified all of the issues we need to address for a comprehensive and final agreement,” adding that “it won’t be easy, but we’ve gotten off to a good start.”
As for whether the UK intends to press ahead with more diplomatic openness with Tehran, including reopening the British embassy in Tehran, the British Foreign Office said: “We have not taken any decision on reopening the British Embassy in Tehran. This will depend on the progress we made in our step-by-step approach.”