Britain reopens embassy in Tehran

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond declares embassy open and raises Union Jack flag in garden of nineteenth-century residence in Tehran

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond (L) and non-resident charge d'affaires Ajay Sharma watch as the Union flag is raised at the British Embassy in Tehran, Iran, August 23, 2015.

Britain reopened its embassy in Tehran on Sunday, a historic step in the thawing of relations between the Islamic state and Western powers, Reuters reported.

British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, declared the embassy open and raised the Union Jack flag in the garden of the nineteenth-century residence in the Iranian capital that was stormed by protesters nearly four years ago. 

The embassy was opened in the wake of Iran’s rapid rapprochement with the West after an agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear program. 

The final agreement reached on July 14 between Iran and the P5+1 countries - including,  Germany, France, Britain, Russia, China, and the US - also pledged removal of UN sanctions that were implemented after Iran's insistence on its nuclear programme during the Ahmedinejad presidency. 

Hammond was the Britain's first foreign secretary to visit Iran in nearly 4 years and his visit follows visits from the French and Italian foreign ministers and also Germany’s vice-chancellor and the EU’s foreign policy chief.

Hammond's visit was accompanied by business leaders and the Foreign Office's political director, Sir Simon Gass, who represented the UK during the nuclear talks with Iran.

The new UK ambassador to Tehran has been chosen but not yet officially announced by British authorities.

The residence of the British ambassador in Tehran have been renovated after the attacks that resulted in storming and ransacking of the building.

The mob attacks were organised by hardliners, including the members of the paramilitary basij brigades, under the control of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, in 2011.

It's expected for full diplomatic relations to resume soon, however some technical problems hinder this.

When British diplomats prepared to abandon the embassy, they destroyed all communication and electronic devices. Now the UK wants to replace the hardware, but Iran limits diplomatic bags to 15 kg, therefore the move currently seems impossible for the British side.

The opening of the Iranian market has created a new wave of competititon between the European countries for investment. Britain was outpaced by its European competitors, forcing London to reopen its embassy in the country before it is fully equipped and rewired.

Jack Straw was the last British foreign secretary to visit Tehran in September 2001.

In the days following 9/11, both countries began to plan against their 'common enemy', the Taliban. Even though the 9/11 brought about brief rapprochement between Iran and the UK, resentment in Iran against Britain due to latter's imperial past remained high.

TRTWorld and agencies