The Guardian reports that Britain is set to reopen its Tehran embassy four years after it was closed.
Britain’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, will formally reopen the UK embassy in Tehran this weekend, nearly four years after it was shut down as a result of a mob attack.
The Iranian embassy in London will be reopened at the same time, as part of a rapid warming of relations between Iran and the west following the agreement reached on 14 July on the future of the Iranian nuclear programme. Hammond’s Tehran trip, the first by a British foreign secretary in nearly 14 years, comes soon after visits from the French and Italian foreign ministers, Germany’s vice-chancellor, and the EU’s foreign policy chief.
Hammond will be accompanied on his visit by a handful of British business leaders as well as the foreign office political director, Sir Simon Gass, who represented British in the marathon talks leading up to the July nuclear agreement.
The UK ambassador’s residence and some of the embassy buildings in Tehran have been restored since they were stormed and ransacked in November 2011 by a crowd of activists rallied by hardliners angry at the UK’s imposition of sanctions on Iran. The mob included members of the paramilitary basij brigades, under the control of the Revolutionary Guards. The protestors climbed the walls of the embassy, burned the British flag and looted property from the living quarters.
The reopened British embassy will be staffed initially by a small number of diplomats led by a Ajay Sharma, who has been non-resident chargé d’affaires since 2013. A new British ambassador has been chosen but not yet announced. Before the storming of the British embassy in Tehran, Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, voted to downgrade bilateral relations from ambassadorial to the rung below, the level of chargés d’affaires. Majlis approval is likely to be needed to restore ambassadorial ties.