Last updated: 15 September, 2013

British and Iranian top diplomats to meet in NY this month

The British and Iranian foreign ministers will meet in New York later this month, the Foreign Office said Sunday, after both sides indicated they wanted to restore ties suspended after an attack on the British embassy in Tehran in 2011.

“They will be meeting but we have no further details at this stage,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman told AFP, adding that the talks would take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The meeting between British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was requested by the British government following the election of new Iranian President Hassan Rowhani in June.

Hague tweeted earlier this month that he hoped for “meaningful talks” with Zarif on Iran’s disputed nuclear programme as well as the Syrian conflict, and “reciprocal steps to improve relations”.

London suspended diplomatic relations with Iran after hardline demonstrators stormed its Tehran embassy in November 2011, in an attack Britain said appeared state-sponsored.

Both sides have indicated they are open to restoring ties, although the Iranians warned it would take time.

“These issues need time and negotiations on an expert level,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi told reporters in August, adding that “it must be decided whether their (Britain’s) approach and behaviour have changed”.

The Islamist students who stormed the British embassy were demonstrating against new Western sanctions adopted against Tehran over its disputed nuclear drive.

Britain was one of the first European countries to adopt sanctions against the Iranian central bank to put pressure on Tehran over the programme.

For his part, British Prime Minister David Cameron said there were still concerns about Iran’s behaviour.

“We have effectively reached out to the Iranian government after the recent elections. And I have written to President Rowhani, so we are prepared to start trying to have a relationship with them,” Cameron told lawmakers last Monday.

Asked about engaging with Iran to help resolve the Syrian conflict, he added: “There is a slight holdback on our behalf because we still really have not had proper redress for the fact that they smashed up our embassy and residence.

“So we do have to enter these talks and discussions with a clear head.”