LONDON, (Reuters) – Britain and Iran have started talks aimed at restoring diplomatic relations two years after an angry mob ransacked the British embassy, Foreign Secretary William Hague said yesterday.
The announcement reflects a significant thawing in Iran’s relations with the West which imposed tough economic sanctions on Tehran after the embassy storming. It may raise hopes of a breakthrough in talks with world powers about its disputed nuclear programme in Geneva next week.
Hague said there had been a “marked change” for the better in Iran’s approach since Hassan Rouhani was election president in June, replacing hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“Both our countries will now appoint a non-resident charge d’affaires tasked with implementing the building of relations, including interim steps on the way towards (the) eventual reopening of both our embassies,” Hague told parliament.
“It is clear that the new president and ministers in Iran are presenting themselves and their country in a much more positive way. We must test the Iranian government’s sincerity to the full.”
Britain’s two diplomatic compounds in Tehran were overrun on an afternoon in November 2011 in what London said was a co-ordinated attack, after a rally against British sanctions escalated into violence and protesters scaled the walls.
As crowds smashed and burned buildings and documents, diplomats inside feared they would suffer a similar fate to U.S. staff who were held for 444 days after their embassy was seized in 1979.