U.K. Envoy to Visit Iran for First Time in Two Years

U.K.-Iran ties frayed in 2011 after Islamist students stormed U.K. compound

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The U.K.’s new envoy to Tehran, Ajay Sharma, will visit Iran on Tuesday in hopes of warming ties between the two countries that were severed in 2011, AFP reports.

The move was announced by Hassan Habibollah-Zadah, Sharma’s Iranian counterpart, who said he would also visit London. Sharma’s impending visit was then confirmed in a tweet by British Foreign Secretary William Hague: “UK chargé d’affaires will make 1st visit to Tehran tomorrow. We’ll improve UK-Iran ties on a step-by-step, reciprocal basis.” Both nations named a non-resident charge d’affaires — one level below the ambassador — for the other last month.

Relations between the U.K. and Iran dried up in November 2011 after hundreds of Islamist students, protesting Western sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear program, stormed its compound in Tehran and pulled down its flag. Iranian lawmakers overwhelmingly voted two days later to “downgrade” its diplomatic ties, prompting the U.K. to do the same soon afterward by withdrawing its staff from Iran and closing the Iranian embassy in London.

But that tension began to ease after Hassan Rouhani was elected Iran’s new president in June and began making inroads to revive ties with the West in an effort to ease the sanctions. In September, Hague held his first meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York and said the U.K. was “open to better relations” with Iran.