Zarif, Hammond hold joint press conference in Tehran

Zarif-Hamond

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond are holding a joint press conference in the Iranian capital, Tehran, taking questions from reporters hours after the reopening of the UK Embassy in the Islamic Republic.

Zarif said Iran and Britain could resolve “differences through interaction and reaching a mutual understanding.”

He noted that Tehran and London share views about fighting “extremism, Daesh” and drug trafficking in the region.

For his part, Hammond said he felt “delighted” about the reopening of Iranian and British embassies, saying they serve as “important practical channels” to engage on “many issues we have shared interests.”

He said that there has been “improvement between the two countries step-by-step” since President Hassan Rouhani was elected in July 2013.

“Iran is and will remain a very important country in a strategically but volatile region,” he said.

Hammond noted that “our embassies play an important role in maintaining” dialogue between Tehran and London.

The British top diplomat also referred to his talks with Iran’s petroleum minister, Bijan Zangeneh, saying the business delegates accompanying him are “more than willing” to invest in Iran once sanctions against the Islamic Republic are lifted.

He said Iran’s petroleum industry has shown “openness” to foreign investment.

Hammond arrived in Tehran on a historic visit earlier on Sunday, and went to the embassy’s premises to reopen the headquarters of the British diplomatic mission to Iran, which had been closed since November 2011.

Back then, Britain closed the embassy and withdrew its diplomatic staff after hundreds of Iranian students staged a protest outside the diplomatic premises in Tehran against the expansion of UK sanctions on Iran, pulling down the UK flag and demanding the expulsion of the British ambassador.

Later in November that year, Iran’s Parliament (Majlis) approved a bill to downgrade the diplomatic ties between Tehran and London to the level of chargé d’affaires.

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