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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Boris Johnson to raise Iranian dual national's release during Middle East trip

British foreign secretary is heading to Iran to discuss the Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe case, but will also visit the UAE and Oman

Boris Johnson. Thierry Charlier / AFP Photo
Boris Johnson. Thierry Charlier / AFP Photo

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson is to visit the United Arab Emirates on a Middle East trip that takes in Iran and Oman.

A statement said Mr Johnson would press for the release of detained dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe as well as hold discussions with senior figures in all three countries.

The Foreign Secretary would also focus on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the conflict in Yemen and tensions in the region.

This trip will be the first of a British Foreign Secretary to Iran since 2015 and only the third since 2003.

“This visit comes at a crucial time for the Gulf region and provides an opportunity to discuss a peaceful solution to the conflict in Yemen, the future of the Iran nuclear deal and the current volatility in the Middle East," a spokesman said.

“This is the first visit of the Foreign Secretary to Iran and we expect talks to cover a wide range of issues from the bilateral relationship to regional security. The government remains very concerned about all our dual nationals detained in Iran and has been doing everything it can to make progress on their cases, while approaching them in a way that we judge is in their best interests. The Foreign Secretary will urge the Iranians to release dual nationals where there are humanitarian grounds to do so.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces an extra decade in prison when she due to make a fresh appearance in court on Sunday facing new charges relating to espionage.

No plans have been announced for Richard Ratcliffe, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, to also attend the trip.

Mr Johnson personally apologised to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband last month after making comments which the minister admitted could have been construed by the Iranians as a sign that she had been in Tehran on anything other than a holiday. Mr Johnson said she had been in the country training journalists.

The Tehran born charity worker was held during a family visit to the country.

Hopes for her early release rose last week when it emerged an Iranian government medic was to make checks on her mental health after claims she has been suffering panic attacks, insomnia, bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts. She has also had a cancer scare.

However, the foreign secretary has said he is not anticipating an an immediate breakthrough in the case. As part of the trip he will attempt settle a long-running £400m dispute which could help secure the British-Iranian mother’s freedom.

UK newspaper The Guardian reports that the Foreign Office was understood to be "actively seeking creative advice" on how to overcome the issue of sanctions in order to finally release the compensation for the non-delivery of Chieftain tanks first ordered by Tehran in the 1970s.

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