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Iran, UK Formally Resume Diplomatic Ties

UK announces 'step forward' in 'establishing a bilateral relationship' with Iran; British embassy in Iran not opened yet, however.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 2/21/2014, 11:57 AM

The Iranian flag (illustrative)
The Iranian flag (illustrative)
Reuters

The UK has formally resumed ties with Iran, AFP reported Thursday, after three years of diplomatic silence. 

"The UK has agreed with Iran that from today bilateral relations will be conducted directly through non-resident charge d'affaires and officials," a Foreign Office spokesman told AFP. "We will no longer have formal protecting power arrangements in place. This is the next stage of the step-by-step process of taking forward our bilateral relationship with Iran."

Whether or not to reopen the British embassy in Iran remains an issue of contention between the two countries, however. "We have made it clear that the issue of compensation (for the damage caused) needs to be addressed," the spokesman said.

Iran ordered British officials to leave the country in 2011, over the UK government's joint efforts with the US to thwart the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

Three days later, a government-organized student protest ransacked the embassy, burned the British flag, and chanted hate slogans against Western powers. Britain responded by severing all diplomatic relations with Iran, closing the embassy and evacuating British nationals. 

The UK first announced the move to re-establish ties in December, naming current Foreign Office Minister for Iran Ajay Sharma as the next Ambassador to the Islamic Republic. 

After years of talks, Iran and the six world powers, known as the P5+1,  reached a six-month interim nuclear deal in November. That deal went into effect on January 20.

Under the agreement, Iran committed to limit its uranium enrichment to five percent, halting production of 20 percent-enriched uranium. In return, the European Union and the United States have eased crippling economic sanctions on Iran.

The parties hope to create a lasting accord out of the interim deal, which expires on July 20 but can be extended, with the parties aiming to conclude negotiations and implement the final "comprehensive" deal by November.

The formal announcement follows news Thursday night that Iran is keeping the terms of the interim agreement, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In addition, talks over a final agreement are allegedly progressing well in Geneva; Iranian state media said both sides were close to agreeing on a framework agreement on how negotiations would proceed in future rounds over the coming months.