The British Embassy in Iran has reopened after closing in 2011. Philip Hammond became the first British foreign minister to visit the building – still adorned with “death to England” graffiti – since 2003.
The 14-acre Victorian compound, a legacy of Empire, was stormed by anti-western protesters in 2011 and was subsequently forced to close. The protestors looted, set an outbuilding alight, smashed windows, burnt the Union Flag and injured one person – Philip Hammond described the episode as a “low point.”
The embassy doors and walls are still scrawled with red graffiti written in Farsi, stating: “death to England” (pictured above). Apparently, the embassy is awaiting “historically appropriate” paint before covering it over, The Guardian reports.
Hammond is only the third British Foreign secretary to visit Iran since extremists overthrew the moderate, pro-west royal family in 1979 to set up the Islamic republic.
Arrived in #Tehran. First British Ministerial visit since 2003. Historic moment in UK-Iran relations.
— Philip Hammond (@PHammondMP) August 23, 2015
The Iranian government sent only a junior official to meet Hammond, Abolghasem Delphi, head of the western European department at the foreign ministry, who made no public comments.
Hammond was due to meet the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Sunday evening and president Hassan Rouhani today. He will also visit Iran’s petroleum ministry accompanied by a group of British businessmen.
Hammond described relations between the two nations as “cordial.” He said: “We will not always agree but as confidence and trust grows, there should be no limit to what over time we can achieve together and no limit to our ability to discuss together the challenges we mutually face.”
The news of the embassy re-opening comes just weeks after the U.S. and its allies signed a heavily criticised deal with Iran to restart bilateral relations and lift trade restrictions, as Iran promises to restrict it’s illegal programme to build nuclear weapons.
Speaking to the BBC, Hammond acknowledged that there is no guarantee Iran will abide by the deal, but “you have to make a judgement,” he said. Adding:
“My judgement is that whatever Iran has or hasn’t been doing in the past, the regime, the Iranian people, have come to the conclusion that pursuing, or being believed to pursue, an illegal military nuclear programme just imposes too great a cost on Iran.”
— Foreign Office (FCO) (@foreignoffice) August 23, 2015