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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Boris Johnson to issue words of warning to Iran

Mr Johnson will raise a number of issues in Tehran

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's trip will be the first of a British Foreign Secretary to Iran since 2015 and only the third since 2003. Victoria Jones/Pool Photo via AP
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's trip will be the first of a British Foreign Secretary to Iran since 2015 and only the third since 2003. Victoria Jones/Pool Photo via AP

Ahead of his first visit to Iran, the UK’s foreign secretary has said he intends to press for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British woman who has been held in an Iranian prison for more than a year on charges of espionage.

Boris Johnson will also stress the UK’s support for the existing nuclear deal and raise concerns Britain has with Iran’s activity in the Middle East.

In a statement released ahead of his arrival, Mr Johnson said:

"Iran is a significant country in a strategically important, but volatile and unstable, region which matters to the UK's security and prosperity.

"My first visit is an opportunity to hold further discussions on a series of crucial issues, including how we can find a political solution to the devastating conflict in Yemen and secure greater humanitarian access to ease the immense suffering there. I will also underline the UK's continued support for the nuclear deal while making clear our concerns about some of Iran's activity in the region.

"We will also discuss our bilateral relationship and 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.

“While our relationship with Iran has improved significantly since 2011, it is not straightforward and on many issues we will not agree. But I am clear that dialogue is the key to managing our differences and, where possible, making progress on issues that really matter, even under difficult conditions.

“I look forward to a constructive visit.”

The Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has dampened down hopes of the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, saying that while there was international pressure on his country about the treatment of foreign nationals in Iranian jails, other countries such as America were also overseeing institutions in which prisoners were being abused and “tortured”.

“All of this concern about these folks being detained in Iran what do you say about Guantanamo and other sites in which there have been many hundreds tortured very brutally and it has been verified by international organisations, but the United States never paid attention to such charges,” Mr Rouhani said.

A statement released by the Foreign Office stated: “This trip will be the first of a British Foreign Secretary to Iran since 2015 and only the third since 2003.