Publishe Date: 9:46 PM - 9/15/2013 | Print

Iranian President to Meet British Top Diplomat in New York

Politics - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani agreed to meet British Foreign Secretary William Hague on the sidelines of the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting in New York later this month.

The meeting will be held at London's request.

The foreign media reports had earlier raised the possibility of such a meeting, but the repors were not confirmed officially by Iran. Following the reports, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif merely announced his readiness to meet Hague.

Talking to reporters early in September, Zarif responded to a question about the request of the British foreign secretary to have a meeting with him, and said that he has no problem with meeting his British counterpart William Hague on the sidelines of the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting in New York, but meantime underlined that the resumption of the Iran-UK ties would depend on London’s behavior.

“We do not have any problem with such a meeting, but what is important is its output,” Zarif said told reporters after a cabinet meeting here in Tehran.

Asked if his possible meeting with Hague can result in improving Iran-UK relations, he said, "This depends on the other side’s behavior."

Unofficial sources disclosed earlier this month that the British foreign secretary has signaled his country's resolve to improve relations with Iran by offering talks with Iranian President and other senior officials.

They said that Hague has offered his Iranian counterpart Zarif to attend bilateral talks on the sidelines of the upcoming annual meeting of the UN General Assembly.

Hague had also earlier called his Iranian counterpart to felicitate Zarif on his appointment as Iran's new foreign minister.

Earlier this year, former Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and Hague in a telephone conversation discussed bilateral ties and the latest regional developments.

During the phone conversation on July 31, the Iranian and British foreign ministers discussed ways to improve Tehran-London ties. Earlier in July, the British foreign minister had underlined his country’s intention to improve relations with Iran.

“We are ready to improve our relations with Iran on a step-by-step basis,” Hague said, addressing the House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee in the British capital, London at the time.

Relations between Iran and Britain hit an all-time low in November 2011, when the two countries shut down their diplomatic missions around Britain's key role in the imposition of a new set of western sanctions against Iran and its repeated meddling with Iran's domestic affairs.

Iran recalled all its staff and closed its embassy in London in November after Britain recalled its diplomatic mission in Tehran due to massive protests in front of the British embassy complex by thousands of Iranian students who demanded a cut of ties with London.

The Iranian students' November protests at the British mission came after the Iranian legislators in an open session of the parliament in November approved the bill of a law on downgrading relations with Britain. After the parliament approval, Iran expelled the British ambassador from Tehran.

The parliament approval came a week after the US and Britain targeted Iranian financial sectors with new punitive measures, including sanctions on Iran's Central Bank and petrochemical industry.

The sanction against CBI and Iran's petrochemical industry was adopted in a unilateral move by the US, Canada and Britain outside the UN Security Council as other council members, specially Russia and China, had earlier warned against any fresh punitive measure, including sanctions, against Iran.

The British government has also embarked on delisting the anti-Iran terrorist Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) from its list of terrorist groups.

The Iranian lawmakers initially started drafting a bill to downgrade ties with London after Britain's direct involvement in stirring post-election unrests in Iran in 2009, but they intensified and accelerated the move after former British Envoy to Tehran Simon Gass criticized the human rights situation in Iran.

"Today, International Human Rights Day is highlighting the cases of those people around the world who stand up for the rights of others - the lawyers, journalists and NGO workers who place themselves at risk to defend their countrymen," Gass said in a memo published by the British Embassy in Tehran on December 9, 2010.

"Nowhere are they under greater threat than in Iran. Since last year human rights defenders have been harassed and imprisoned," Gass added.

Following Britain's support for a group of wild demonstrators who disrespected Islamic sanctities and damaged private and public amenities and properties in Tehran on

December 27, 2009, members of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission drafted bill of a law requiring the country's Foreign Ministry to cut relations with Britain completely.

The British government's blatant stance and repeated remarks in support of the last year unrests inside Iran and London's espionage operations and financial and media support for the opposition groups are among the reasons mentioned in the bill for cutting ties with Britain.

Iran has repeatedly accused the West of stoking post-election unrests, singling out Britain and the US for meddling. Tehran expelled two British diplomats and arrested a number of local staffs of the British embassy in Tehran after documents and evidence substantiated London's interfering role in stirring post-election riots in Iran.

 

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