London Urged to Speed Up Tehran Rapprochement

London Urged to Speed Up Tehran Rapprochement
London Urged to Speed Up Tehran Rapprochement

Former British diplomat has called on London to accelerate its efforts to restore ties with Tehran as a key regional player capable of helping overcome the crises enveloping the strategic Middle East.   

Jack Straw, a former Labor home secretary and foreign secretary said,  “There’s wide cross-party agreement that particularly with the turbulence in the region, especially in Iraq and Syria, the quicker we establish full diplomatic relations with Iran, the better,” Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

“Most of us think the problem with visas can be resolved more easily with diplomatic relations, than without,” he noted. According to the Times, Straw's remarks came ahead of a planned meeting between Foreign Office diplomats and their counterparts from Iran to discuss the issue.

His remarks also came against the backdrop of reports earlier this week accusing the home secretary  Theresa May of blocking attempts to restore ties by refusing Tehran’s demand for a visa processing service to be established in the reopened embassy.

According to a report by the Telegraph on Tuesday, Theresa May is said to be delaying progress by refusing to reopen a visa office at the embassy – a key demand by Tehran – until 4,000 Iranians are deported from Britain.  

They include asylum seekers and residents whose visas expired during the three-year suspension of diplomatic ties after an attack on the British Embassy in Tehran.   

Iran and UK have been discussing "technicalities" of reopening the embassies since last year. In December, MP Abbasali Mansouri Arani said talks are underway between officials from both countries on the issue and that he is "optimistic" that the UK mission will reopen by the end of this Iranian year (March 20).  

In addition to delivering consular services by the UK mission, Tehran wants to inspect shipments of equipment for the embassy to replace the old ones which UK says were destroyed during the events in November 2011.  London says such a demand is "unacceptable" because the containers hold highly sensitive communications equipment needed to make the mission secure, British officials said.

Britain cut its ties with Tehran in 2011 and withdrew its diplomatic staff from Iran and ordered the staff of the Iranian Embassy in London to leave. The move came after an angry group stormed the British Embassy to protest London's policy on Iran. The Majlis had earlier voted to downgrade diplomatic relations with the former colonial power.

Nearly two years later in October 2013 and following the election of President Hassan Rouhani, the two sides agreed to appoint non-resident chargés d’affaires as a first step toward restoration of ties.