LONDON: Britain plans to reopen its embassy in Iran, Foreign Secretary William Hague announced Tuesday, as the West steps up its engagement with Tehran amid rapid jihadist advances in neighboring Iraq.
Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) are moving on the Iraqi capital Baghdad after a week-long offensive which has seen them make key gains, including taking the second city of Mosul.
"I have therefore now decided the circumstances are right to reopen our embassy in Tehran. There are a range of practical issues that we will need to resolve first," Hague said in a written statement to parliament.
"However, it is our intention to reopen the Embassy in Tehran with a small initial presence as soon as these practical arrangements have been made."
His statement did not directly mention the situation in Iraq but noted that "Iran is an important country in a volatile region."
Britain closed its embassy in Tehran in 2011 after it was stormed by a mob, and suspended full diplomatic relations with Iran.
It appointed a non-resident charge d'affaires to Iran in November, restoring direct diplomatic contacts.
Iran and the United States, which is considering drone strikes in Iraq, briefly discussed the crisis on the sidelines of nuclear talks in Vienna Monday. The historic foes mulled their "shared interest" in preventing Sunni insurgents from gaining a foothold in Iraq.
Hague said that there had "never been any doubt in my mind that we should have an Embassy in Tehran if circumstances allowed."
He added that he took the decision to move towards re-opening the embassy after a phone call with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Saturday.