UK and US close diplomatic gap with Iran over Iraq crisis

By Charlotte Oliver, June 17, 2014
Foreign Secretary William Hague (Photo: US Department of State)

Foreign Secretary William Hague (Photo: US Department of State)

Foreign Secretary William Hague has said he has spoken to Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, in an attempt to co-ordinate a response to the jihadi surge in the north of Iraq.

According to Mr Hague, the UK is following the United States’ lead in easing tensions between the West and the Tehran in order to work towards a common cause – finding a solution to the crisis in Iraq.

For more than a week now, the country’s Shia-led military has been under assault by Sunni jihadis called Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) in the north of the country.

Mr Hague said that although the UK would not be offering any military support, it would be undertaking a possible U-turn in relations with Iran, whose government is considering lending military support to Iraq.

The Foreign Secretary told MPs: “We are taking action in three areas: promoting political unity among those who support a democratic Iraqi state and stability in the region; offering assistance where appropriate and possible and alleviating humanitarian suffering.

“That is a very good argument for trying to advance our bilateral relations. Of course, we do also have to deal with the issue of Iran's nuclear programme.

“We do need Iran to make its contribution to stability in the region by seizing support for sectarian groups in other parts of the region.”

His comments came after US Secretary of State John Kerry announced he would be “open to discussions” with Iran in order to find a solution to the continuing violence in Iraq.

Mr Kerry said: “I would not rule out anything that would be constructive in providing real stability, a respect for the constitution, a respect for the election process and a respect for the ability of the Iraqi people to form a government that represents all the interests of Iraq.”

Mr Hague will return to the House of Commons today, where he is expected to elaborate on his discussions with the Iranian government, as well as announce plans to re-open the British embassy in the country’s capital, Tehran.

Last updated: 11:24am, June 17 2014