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Nuclear deal marks chance for fresh start in UK-Iran relations - Cameron

Published 16/07/2015

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is in Tel Aviv for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Iran nuclear deal
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is in Tel Aviv for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Iran nuclear deal

Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for the first time since the agreement granting UN inspectors access to Tehran's nuclear facilities in return for the lifting of some international sanctions.

In their 20-minute conversation, the pair said the deal struck in Vienna earlier this week could pave the way to closer co-operation between their countries on issues like countering the threat from the Islamic State (IS) terror group and reopening the UK's embassy in Tehran.

The conversation came as Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the aim of urging him to engage with "the new reality" and abandon hope of blocking the deal.

Mr Hammond flew to Tel Aviv yesterday, accusing Israel of wanting a "permanent stand-off" with Tehran which was dangerous for the Middle East and the world, and calling for a more pragmatic response.

Speaking alongside the Foreign Secretary ahead of their talks, Mr Netanyahu said it was "perplexing" that the deal did not address Iranian threats to annihilate Israel.

"We would have wanted to see a deal that says the following: 'Iran, you will get the easing on the restrictions on your nuclear programme, and you will get sanctions relief if you change your behaviour first'," said the Israeli PM.

Mr Hammond said he understood Mr Netanyahu's concerns, but added: "We have always been clear that this deal was about the nuclear file."

He said Iran's "regional conduct" will "have to be dealt with in the months and years to come", telling Mr Netanyahu: "We are not naive about this."

President Rouhani tweeted that, in the phone call, Mr Cameron had welcomed the deal and Iran's constructive role in the negotiations.

He added that the Prime Minister had "expressed interest in reopening embassies and expansion of ties in the framework of mutual interest and respect plus combating terrorism in region".

Downing Street said the leaders "welcomed the historic deal and underlined their respective commitments to delivering on it".

A No 10 spokesman said: " The Prime Minister expressed his hope that this deal would mark a fresh start in bilateral relations between the UK and Iran and in Iran's role in the region.

"Both agreed that there was real capacity to develop stronger ties between our two countries. The Prime Minister made clear that he remained committed to reopening the British embassy in Tehran and they agreed that foreign ministers should continue to work together to resolve the outstanding issues before this can happen.

"On regional issues, the discussions focused on bringing about a political solution in Yemen and helping Prime Minister Abadi to build an inclusive government in Iraq.

"They concluded that both countries should work together to strengthen relations based on mutual respect and understanding."

Full diplomatic relations with Iran were suspended after a mob invaded the British embassy in 2011, but former foreign secretary William Hague last year announced plans to reopen it following improvements in bilateral relations.

Mr Cameron's call came shortly after official documents revealed that the Foreign Office may use the opportunity of the reopening of Iran's embassy in London to pursue the recovery of almost £100,000 in unpaid taxes.

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