In a further sign of thawing relations between Iran and the West, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Sunday reopened the UK embassy in Tehran, nearly four years after it was ransacked by angry protesters.
As "God Save the Queen" played during a ceremony at the compound in the Iranian capital, the union jack was raised over the embassy for the first time since it was torn down and replaced with an Iranian flag during the November 2011 incident.
The embassy violation occurred after protesters had been demonstrating against the British government's imposition of sanctions against Iran's government over its nuclear program.
However, with a major international pact curtailing the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief nearing final approval, Hammond said "reopening the embassy is the next logical step."
"Last month’s historic nuclear agreement was another milestone, and showed the power of diplomacy, conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect, to solve shared challenges," he said in his speech.
Describing the 2011 attack as a "low point," Hammond said the election of the moderate president Hassan Rouhani had resulted in the steady improvement of relations between the two countries.
"Iran is, and will remain, an important country in a strategically important but volatile region. Maintaining dialogue around the world, even under difficult conditions, is critical. And embassies are the primary means of achieving this," he said.
During the 2011 embassy incursion, documents were stolen and sections of the grand 19th-century building were vandalized by the protesters.
At Sunday's ceremony, graffiti reading "Death to England" could be seen where demonstrators had scrawled it on doors and above a portrait of Queen Elizabeth.
Britain responded to the attack by closing Iran's embassy in London, but that mission was also reopened on Sunday during a ceremony in the British capital.
The thawing of high-level diplomatic relations was not greeted warmly by all, however. A BBC journalist in Tehran, Saeedeh Hashemi, tweeted pictures of hardliners protesting outside the British embassy on Sunday.
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
Contact David Mack at email@example.com.
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