Leaders of UK and Iran meet for first time since 1979 Islamic revolution
The British prime minister, David Cameron, met the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, in New York on Wednesday in what marks a milestone in the long-strained relations between London and Tehran, Guardian reported.
The meeting - as the two leaders attended the UN general assembly - was the first encounter between an Iranian president and a British prime minister since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Iranian reporters in Rouhani's UN entourage tweeted pictures of the smiling Iranian cleric shaking hands with Cameron in front of the two countries' flags.
"A little bit of history made," the prime minister was overheard telling one of his aides, according to a tweet by a British reporter , as the meeting ended.
Rouhani's deputy, Hamid Abutalebi, said the meeting would prepare the ground for "fundamental changes" in the relationship between Iran and the EU.
It "will bring fundamental changes to Iran-EU relations as well the nuclear negotiations," he said, according to the semi-official Isna news agency. "It will be one of the biggest achievements of Dr Rouhani's visit to New York and it will also have an affect on Tehran-London relations."
Despite the meeting's significance, Rouhani has to proceed cautiously as he visits the UN, accommodating world leaders while not upsetting hardliners at home. The domestic repercussions of any statements he makes or meetings he attends can be costly and hawks and fundamentalists, such as those in the Iranian parliament, will be circling like vultures to watch him slip.
Before the Cameron meeting, Rouhani had already met a number of world leaders, including France's François Hollande and Austria's Heinz Fischer, but with suspicion of Britain rife in Iran it will be the most-scrutinised at home.Iranian hardliners have an extraordinary obsession with Britain (which they still consider "the old fox") and approach it with a conspiratorial mindset. In their view, British hands are behind everything political in Tehran and the royal family still runs Westminster. Iranian conservatives have a suspicion towards Britain much deeper and stronger than towards the United States.
The British embassy in Tehran, which was shut down in 2011 following an attack by an angry mob, remains closed. Both sides have decided to reopen embassies but complications in Iran mean the UK mission is not fully open.