Why David Cameron's meeting with the Iranian president is so significant

David Cameron met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly in New York this week to discuss the fight against Isis.

It was the first face-to-face meeting between the two countries' leaders in 35 years.

Why have relations been so frayed?

Britain severed diplomatic ties with Iran in 1979 following the country's Islamic revolution which saw the installation of the first supreme religious and political leader - Ayatollah Khomeini.

Relations between the countries were further aggravated by numerous diplomatic incidents - including the siege of the Iranian embassy in London in 1980 and the Fatwa issued against British writer Salman Rushdie in 1990.

Not to mention Iranian distrust of London, owing to suspicions about Britain's role in the country's 1953 coup d'etat and the British-Soviet invasion during World War II.

Former President, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad (Picture: AP)

In more recent years the issue of Iran's nuclear programme has been the source of most tensions - with Britain and other Western powers imposing sanctions because they believed the country was, or is, building a bomb.

The British embassy reopened in Tehran in 1988 but was shut down again in 2011 when it was ransacked by a paramilitary group.

Relations with former President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad werenotoriouslyfrosty.

The thaw in relations

Diplomatic relations between the countries were said to have "thawed considerably" in recent months, particularly since the election of the more politically-moderate Mr Rouhani in August 2013.

The Foreign Office released a statement in October of last year which said:

We hope that following the election of President Rouhani Iran will engage constructively with the E3+3 [UK, France, Germany + USA, Russia, China] and reach a negotiated settlement with the international community on the nuclear issue.

  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office statement, October 2013
Keep reading...Show less
Please log in or register to upvote this article
The Conversation (0)