Britain and Iran said Thursday they have resumed full diplomatic relations, ending a 17-month break in ties caused in part by the arrest of an Iranian envoy on shoplifting charges.
Thursday’s announcement followed talks in Vienna between David Myers, Britain’s assistant undersecretary of state for Middle Eastern affairs, and Mahmoud Vaezi, director general of Iran’s Foreign Ministry.
Iran and Britain “have decided to resume full diplomatic representation with immediate effect based on reciprocity, mutual respect and non-interference in each others’ affairs,” a British Foreign Office statement said.
Tehran Radio said a statement and memorandum of understanding were signed at Iran’s mission in Vienna early Thursday morning.
Mohammed Basti, Iran’s lone diplomat in Britain throughout the freeze, hinted that the resumption of ties could speed the release of Britons held hostage by pro-Iranian Islamic militants in Lebanon.
Questioned on British Broadcasting Corp. radio, Basti said the hostage issue had not arisen in the negotiations but added: “If you are trying to imply that the new relationship between Iran and Britain may contribute to that end, I’m not going to deny that.”
British Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe also said the hostages’ plight was not brought up in the talks.
“There’s no bargain or secret agenda,” he told the BBC, but he added that the thaw enables Britain “more effectively to press the case at every opportunity for the Iranians to use all the influence they have got to secure the release of hostages.”
Britain is seeking the release of Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite; journalist John McCarthy, and teacher Brian Keenan, who also holds an Irish passport. The Foreign Office says it also seeks word on Alec Collett, a New York-based British journalist whose Palestinian abductors reported having killed. His body was never found.
Nine Americans are being held hostage by Islamic militants in Lebanon.
Last June, France restored diplomatic relations with Iran several weeks after the last three French hostages were released by pro-Iranian extremists in Lebanon.
Diplomatic relations between Britain and Iran deteriorated in June, 1987, after an Iranian diplomat was arrested on shoplifting charges in Britain and militants kidnaped and beat up a British diplomat in Tehran.
Britain withdrew its diplomats from Tehran, closed the Iranian consulate in Manchester, England, and reduced the number of Iranian staff at the London embassy to one.