Key Quotes on Iran-Britain Tensions

Annika Folkeson

        After the Iranians stormed the British embassy in Tehran on Nov. 29, Britain closed the Iranian embassy in London and expelled all Iranian diplomats. Britain also evacuated its diplomats in Tehran. The new tensions followed London’s new sanctions on all Iranian banks on Nov. 21 and the Iranian parliament’s decision on Nov 27 to downgrade relations with Britain. The following are quotes on the tensions between London and Tehran from top officials.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Nov. 30
"This is a breach of international responsibilities of which any nation should be ashamed…We have now closed the British embassy in Tehran. We have decided to evacuate all our staff…We require the immediate closure of the Iranian embassy in London and all staff must leave in the next 48 hours.”
"Iran is a country where opposition leaders are under house arrest, more than 500 people have been executed so far this year and where genuine protest is ruthlessly stamped on…The idea that the Iranian authorities could not have protected our embassy or that this assault could have taken place without some degree of regime consent is fanciful."
British Prime Minister David Cameron on Nov. 30
"The Iranian government must recognize that there will be serious consequences for failing to protect our staff…We will consider what these measures should be in the coming days."
"That should be our number one concern, their [the British diplomats’] safety, their security, and making sure that those are maintained…After that we will consider taking some very tough action in response to this completely appalling and disgraceful behavior by the Iranians."
Statement by the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the British Embassy incident on Nov. 29
“Following the protest demonstration by students that led the demonstration to get out of control, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran expressed regrets for some of the unacceptable behaviors by few demonstrators that were carried out in spite of the efforts made by the police forces and strengthening the forces to protect the Embassy. The Ministry has also requested the relevant officials to immediately investigate the case and to take necessary measures in this connection.
 The Ministry of Foreign Affairs while respecting the international laws and regulations and emphasizing on the immunity of diplomatic places, reiterates further on the commitment of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to safeguard and protect the diplomatic places and personnel… It is conceded that the case will be followed through legal channels and the relevant authorities.
Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani on Nov. 30
"The Security Council's reaction to the student protests is a tactic to hide the truth about the U.S. and Britain's illegal actions against Iran recently."
Iranian Member of Parliament Seyed Amir Hossein Qazizadeh Hashemi on Nov. 30
"The move by the Iranian youth at the British embassy was the occupation of the second den of spies.”
Iranian MP Zohreh Elahian on Nov. 30
"Students will not keep mum about [the] threat and sanctions on Iran."
                                                            UNITED STATES
White House Statement on the Storming of the British Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 29
The United States condemns in the strongest terms the storming of the British Embassy in Tehran.  Iran has a responsibility to protect the diplomatic missions present in its country and the personnel stationed at them.  We urge Iran to fully respect its international obligations, to condemn the incident, to prosecute the offenders, and to ensure that no further such incidents take place either at the British Embassy or any other mission in Iran. Our State Department is in close contact with the British government and we stand ready to support our allies at this difficult time.
Annika Folkeson works for the Center for Conflict Management at the U. S. Institute of Peace.