By John Lee.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has been in Iran this weekend to meet with President Hassan Rouhani, and to re-open the British embassy in Tehran.
Mr Hammond told the BBC:
“In all of the meetings we’ve been to we’ve heard a consistent message that Iran wants to do business with Britain, that it wants to see a new chapter in our relationship, that Iran will very much be open to British and other foreign businesses in this next phase.”
Speaking at the re-opening ceremony of the British Embassy in Iran, the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, said:
“I am delighted to be here today. I am the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Tehran since Jack Straw in 2003, and only the third British Minister to visit since 1979. It’s a huge pleasure and privilege to be here.
“Today’s ceremony marks the end of one long journey, and the start of a new, and, I believe, exciting one.
“I want to thank all those who have worked so hard to bring us to this point.
“First, to Mr Delfi and his team at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and to the Iranian Chargé d’affaires in London, Mr Habibollahzadeh. We could not be re-opening today without the constructive support of the MFA whose activice engagement has made this possible.
“Secondly, to the Swedish Embassy, represented by their Chargé, Ewa Nilsson, for their generous and unstinting solidarity over the last four years, initially acting as the UK’s protecting power, and continuing to help us with all manner of ways in areas from consular to finance.
“Thirdly I’d like to thank our own Embassy staff, for your commitment and loyalty over the years and your determination and hard work demonstrated in getting the Embassy ready for today’s reopening. You have done an incredible job.
“This Embassy, and this beautiful compound, is a special place. Britain acquired in it 1869 for 20,000 tomans, then £8,000. A huge sum, in those days, but it has repaid us many times.
“It has witnessed great moments in the history of both Iran and Britain. The Bast of 1906 that led to Iran acquiring its first Constitution and National Assembly, for example. And the Tehran Conference of 1943, when Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin dined here and planned a second military front in Europe.
“The attack in 2011 which forced our Embassy to close was a low point. But since the election of President Rouhani, we have seen our relationship steadily improve, step by step. In 2014, we appointed non-resident Chargés. Last autumn, Prime Minister David Cameron met President Rouhani in New York, the first meeting at that level since 1979 between the leaders of our countries.
“Last month’s historic nuclear agreement was another milestone, and showed the power of diplomacy, conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect, to solve shared challenges.
“Re-opening the Embassy is the logical next step. To build confidence and trust between two great nations.
“Iran is, and will remain, an important country in a strategically important but volatile region. Maintaining dialogue around the world, even under difficult conditions, is critical. And Embassies are the primary means of achieving this.
“Over the coming months, we will work to ensure that the nuclear agreement is a success, including by making sure that it is fully implemented by all sides, and through this Embassy’s efforts we will support British trade and investment, once sanctions are lifted. That will bring benefits for Britain and the Iranian people.
“And we must go on to tackle the common challenges we face together: terrorism, regional stability, the spread of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, trade in illegal narcotics, and migration.
2We 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 these issues together.
“So on behalf of the British Government, I am therefore proud to declare this Embassy once again open. Thank you.”
(Sources: BBC, UK FCO, Iranian Foreign Ministry)