Boris Johnson in ‘frank’ talks over British mother imprisoned in Iran

Boris Johnson shakes hands with the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photograph: AFP/Getty
Boris Johnson shakes hands with the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photograph: AFP/Getty
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Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, has held “frank” talks with his Iranian counterpart in Tehran over the case of imprisoned Briton Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

The two-hour meeting with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif yesterday covered a number of areas, including Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s situation.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “They discussed the full range of bilateral issues and they both spoke frankly about the obstacles in the relationship, including the Foreign Secretary’s concerns about the consular cases of British-Iranian dual nationals.”

In what is being seen as a positive move, Johnson will meet Iranian president Hassan Rouhani today.

The Foreign Secretary has been seeking the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is serving a five-year sentence over allegations, which she denies, of plotting to overthrow the Tehran government.

She was arrested in 2016 during a holiday visit to show her baby daughter Gabriella to her parents.

Reports suggest she could appear in court again today, following threats to increase her sentence by five years following Johnson’s gaffe of telling a parliamentary committee that she had been in Iran to train journalists. He later acknowledged this was not the case.

It is understood Johnson’s comments to MPs did not come up in the meeting with the Iranian foreign minister.

The imprisoned woman’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said: “An honest discussion about Nazanin’s case can only be good for us.

“Obviously, for us the weekend is big because of his visit, but it is also big because she has got the scheduled court case tomorrow.”

Ratcliffe said he will not know for sure whether his wife’s case has gone ahead as planned until he has spoken to her over the phone today.

“I am obviously watching closely with hope, fingers crossed and excitement – I couldn’t sleep at all last night,” he said of the situation.

He said he was pleased the Foreign Secretary was in Iran.

“If he comes back and says ‘this could be done in six months’ time’, that is not going to be a great feeling.

“We are hoping for Christmas still.

“We will be looking to see how the conversation has gone as to how feasible and realistic that is.”