Britain and Iran moved closer to reopening embassies in each other’s capitals after a two-year break by naming new non-resident heads of their diplomatic missions.
The U.K. Foreign Office appointed Ajay Sharma, the head of the Iran department at the ministry and who previously served as deputy head of mission in Tehran, as its charge d’affaires with immediate effect, it said in a statement today. Iran named Mohammad Hassan Habibollahzadeh to the equivalent post, the Fars news agency reported, citing a spokeswoman at Iran’s Foreign Ministry.
“Mr. Sharma’s appointment will enable the U.K. to have more detailed and regular discussions with Iran on a range of issues, including conditions under which our embassies could eventually be reopened,” the Foreign Office said in the statement. “Mr. Sharma will be based in the U.K. but will travel regularly to Iran.”
Agreement on the exchange of diplomats was concluded when officials from both countries met in Geneva in the past few days during talks on Iran’s nuclear program, Fars said. Those negotiations, between Iran and six world powers, failed to clinch a broader accord to relieve international sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iranian restrictions on its nuclear program. There’s been a gradual thawing of Western ties with Iran since the election of Hassan Rouhani as president in June.
The U.K. closed its embassy in Iran in November 2011 after it was overrun by protesters and Britain accused the Iranians of failing to protect it as required under international law. Iranian diplomats were also expelled from London.
Sharma said he hopes to make his first trip to Tehran as charge d’affaires later this month.
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