UNITED NATIONS — Britain’s foreign secretary says his country is open to better relations with Iran, and would consider re-opening its embassy in Tehran.
William Hague met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javid Zarif Monday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. He told reporters afterward that they discussed a range of issues, including the conflict in Syria, Iran’s suspect nuclear program, human rights and relations between their countries.
Secretary Hague said he welcomed recent statements by Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, that he wants to improve relations with other countries.
“The time is now right for those statements to be matched by concrete steps by Iran, to address the international community's concerns about Iran's intentions," he said. "And if such steps are taken, then I believe a more constructive relationship can be created between us."
Hague said he discussed the issue of Britain's embassy in Iran with Minister Zarif. London closed the embassy after protesters overran it in late 2011.
“Of course, ultimately, as I have made clear in Parliament, for Britain to operate an embassy in Tehran again we would have to know that such an embassy could perform all the normal functions of an embassy without the harassment and without the difficulties that were placed in the way of it before," he said.
In response to the attack, the British government shut Tehran’s London embassy and expelled all of its diplomats. London said it did not think the attack could have taken place without the consent of Iranian authorities.
On the crisis in Syria, Secretary Hague said Iran could play a constructive role if it supports the Geneva framework for political talks between the parties and if it stops directly supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
He said the U.N. Security Council will continue working this week toward a resolution to implement Syria’s declaration and eventual destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal.