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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (L) meets President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Dec. 10.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (L) meets President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Dec. 10.

Tehran Welcomes Balanced, Amicable London Relations

Iran offers good economic opportunities, so the UK government wants British firms to be able to undertake investment projects in the country

Tehran Welcomes Balanced, Amicable London Relations

Iran's president called for greater efforts to develop "balanced" and "amicable" Tehran-London ties, expressing regret over the slow development of cooperation after the 2015 landmark nuclear deal brought a thaw in bilateral ties.

Hassan Rouhani made the statement in a Sunday meeting with visiting British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who was on his first trip to Tehran and the third of a British foreign minister since 2003.

"Despite the post-JCPOA atmosphere, the two countries' relations are not proportional to their capacities and more efforts are needed to increase collaboration to the desired level," the president's website quoted him as saying.

Rouhani was using an abbreviation that stands for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name of the nuclear pact that came into effect in January 2016. The landmark accord lifted international sanctions on Iran in return for confidence-building restrictions on its nuclear work, enabling a normalization of economic relations between Tehran and London.

But a series of stumbling blocks, including British banking restrictions for Iranian companies and individuals operating in the UK, have held back Iran-UK trade and prevented a big improvement in bilateral ties.

The fierce opposition to the deal from US President Donald Trump, who has threatened to "terminate" the pact unless what he calls "serious flaws" are addressed, is another factor hindering closer cooperation between the two countries.

The UK, in common with other EU countries, has been a defender of the deal. Rouhani said all parties to the accord should show their will to protect the deal by taking practical steps, stressing the need for more British efforts to remove obstacles to expansion of banking relations.

"Protecting JCPOA and its [proper] implementation is important and we believe all sides, particularly the Iranian nation, should be able to reap their benefits," he said. The meeting came at a time of high tensions in the region over Trump's announcement that he will recognize Beit-ul-Moqaddas as the "capital" of the Israeli regime.

Rouhani said Tehran and London could work toward stabilizing the turbulent region, censuring the "unhelpful" US measure.

"The situation in the region is [so chaotic] that no one should fan the flames. The recent decision of the US president ... poured fuel on the fire in the region," he said.

Rouhani said Tehran has proved that it seeks the return of peace to the region and the end of bloodshed there.

"Today, it is quite clear that Iran has played a constructive role and saved two regional countries [Iraq and Syria] from destruction and terrorism," he said.

  Big Opportunities  

Johnson said the nuclear pact was an achievement that should be upheld and the Iranian people should feel the effect of its economic windfalls.

The top British diplomat said JCPOA has brought big opportunities for developing Anglo-Iranian relations, which London is keen to exploit.

"We are intent on developing wide-ranging ties with Tehran. Iran offers good economic and trade opportunities and we want British firms to be able to undertake investment projects in the country," he said.

Johnson acknowledged Iran's positive role in the region, declaring that Tehran has taken big steps to fight terrorism and promote peace and stability in the region.

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