|Iran ready to discuss compensation for British embassy attack: deputy FM||
TEHRAN – Iran is prepared to discuss financial compensation for the 2011 attack on the British embassy in Tehran as part of an overall agreement to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries – but it will not offer a formal apology, according to the Guardian.
Majid Takht-Ravanchi, deputy foreign minister for European and American affairs, said the restoration of bilateral ties, broken off after the attack, was under active discussion. An agreement was possible by the end of the year although there was no timetable, he said. “An apology is not under consideration. There are many things that happened in the past for which we have not received an apology. But we are definitely working with the British government on what happened,” Ravanchi said. Compensation might be part of the discussions, he added.
Ravanchi said a visit to Tehran late last month by Sir Simon Gass, director-general (political) at the Foreign Office, had gone well. “There was agreement on some things, and not on others,” he said. “It is good to be talking. We are moving in the right direction.”
Gass, a former ambassador to Tehran, is the highest-ranking British diplomat to visit Tehran since relations were severed.
Britain’s historical role in Iran has long been controversial. But it was its strong support for international sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear program that was the trigger for the attack by hundreds of angry students. It came after a vote in the Majlis (parliament) to downgrade ties and in effect expel Gass.
Although the sanctions remain in place, direct contacts have been steadily increasing since September, when William Hague, the foreign secretary, met his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, at the UN general assembly. The meeting followed the installation in Tehran last August of a centrist government led by President Hassan Rouhani.
Both countries have since appointed non-resident chargés d'affaires. Limited consular activities resumed in February, and there has been a series of exchange visits, including a trip to Tehran by a British parliamentary delegation led by former foreign secretary Jack Straw.
“The two sides have agreed to keep moving forward. We are discussing what might be the next steps,” said Hassan Habibollahzadeh, Iran’s non-resident chargé d'affaires. He said he was about to make his third visit to London to meet officials and MPs, although Iran’s embassy in Kensington remains closed.
Britain is understood to want any resumption of diplomatic relations underwritten by guarantees about the safety of British diplomats and local embassy staff, and about the normal, unobstructed functioning of the embassy.
No decision on restoring ties has been made, nor is one expected in the next few months.
Any discussion about financial compensation is expected to focus on the damage done to the embassy building when it was stormed. The demonstrators set fire to the ground floor of the chancery, which was gutted. Doors and windows were smashed, paintings damaged, and diplomats’ personal belongings were lost both at the embassy and at its separate residential compound at Qolhak Gardens, in north Tehran, which was also attacked.
The Iranian foreign ministry expressed its regret at the time, describing it as unacceptable.
Whether Iran and Britain restore full diplomatic relations depends to some extent on the outcome of nuclear talks in Vienna. If they fail, sanctions remain in place, and tensions between Iran and the west increase again as a result, rapprochement may prove beyond reach.
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