UK's Johnson in Iran talks to lobby for jailed aid worker | Reuters

DUBAI (Reuters) - British foreign minister Boris Johnson held talks on Saturday with his Iranian counterpart and other officials, during a visit to Iran where he is expected to seek the release of jailed Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson gives a speech at the Foreign Office in London December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Victoria Jones/PoolThe visit is only the third by a British foreign minister to Iran in the last 14 years, and takes place against a complex backdrop of historical, regional and bilateral tensions. In a meeting with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Johnson called for expanding bilateral cooperation and stressed Britain’s support for Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported. International sanctions against Iran have only recently been lifted as part of a multilateral nuclear deal to curb Tehran’s disputed uranium enrichment programme. That deal is under threat after U.S. President Donald Trump decided to decertify Iran’s compliance with the terms of the agreement. IRNA did not refer to any talks about aid worker Zaghari-Ratcliffe, but Johnson said in an earlier statement: “I will stress my grave concerns about our dual national consular cases and press for their release where there are humanitarian grounds to do so.” Johnson also met Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, and parliament speaker Ali Larijani during the first day of his two-day visit, IRNA said. Johnson has vowed to leave “no stone unturned” in Britain’s efforts to free Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, who was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted by an Iranian court of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment. She denies the charges. Zaghari-Ratcliffe is not the only dual national being held in Iran, but has become the most high-profile case. Johnson said on Nov. 1 that she had been teaching people journalism before her arrest in April 2016, in remarks critics said could have prompted Iran to extend her sentence. The Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charity organisation that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News, said Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been on holiday and had not been teaching journalism in Iran. Johnson has since apologised for any distress his comments may have caused and said that she was in Iran on holiday. Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been told she will appear in court on Dec. 10, her husband Richard has said. The visit will test Johnson’s ability to navigate a political landscape littered with potential pitfalls. Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution turned it into a pariah state for most of the West and many Middle Eastern neighbours. Britain has voiced its continued support for the nuclear deal but is one of a number of Western powers voicing concerns about Tehran’s “destabilising” influence in the region.

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Updated Date: Dec 09, 2017 22:02 PM

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