London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The United Kingdom and Iran will restore some bilateral diplomatic relations, with each country appointing non-resident Chargé d’affaires to work towards mending severed diplomatic ties, British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced on Tuesday.
Speaking before a parliamentary session, Hague said: “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,” adding, “We must test the Iranian Government’s sincerity to the full, and it is important that our channels of communication are open for that.”
The UK closed its embassy in Tehran in November 2011 following attacks by protesters. It later ordered the closure of the Iranian embassy in London. While in November 2011, the Iranian majlis passed a bill downgrading UK-Iran diplomatic relations to the level of Chargé d’affaires.
“Mr. Zarif [Iranian Foreign Minister] and I have discussed how to improve the functioning of the UK-Iran bilateral relationship. 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,” Hague said.
“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,” he added.
However addressing Iran’s disputed nuclear program, Hague reiterated that Tehran would need to make “substantive changes” if it wanted the West to ease sanctions, adding that the future of British-Iranian relations depends on “concrete actions.”
“Iran remains in defiance of six UN Security Council resolutions…and it is installing more centrifuges in its nuclear facilities,” Hague said.
“In the absence of substantial change to these policies, we will continue to maintain strong sanctions. A substantial change in British or Western policies requires a substantive change in that program,” he added.
On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign ministry spokesman Marziyeh Afkham confirmed that Zarif and Hague had spoken on the phone on Monday regarding the appointment of non-residence Chargé d’affaires.
Iran-UK relation had been deteriorating in 2005 when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office and bilateral relations between the two countries subsequently reached their nadir in 2011 after students stormed the British embassy in Tehran.