News

Five foreign secretaries handled Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case. Here is what they did – and didn’t



As Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe pointed out in her press conference on Monday, five foreign secretaries were in post during her six years in Iranian detention, from April 2016.

She said: “I was told many, many times that, oh, we’re going to get you home. That never happened. So there was a time that I felt like, you know what, I’m not going to trust you because I’ve been told many, many times that I’m going to be taken home… I mean, how many former secretaries does it take for someone to come out? Five. It should have been one.”

What did each do to secure her release?

Philip Hammond (July 2014 to July 2016)

Philip, now Lord, Hammond, was in post when Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in April 2016. He told the Commons he had raised her case “a number of times” with the then Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, before moving jobs.

When he was Chancellor in 2017, a story was briefed to The Sun that he and his successor as Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, had authorised government lawyers to settle the decades-long dispute over the UK’s failure to repay Iran money for the purchase of tanks. Yet at the time the Foreign Office insisted the tank deal was not related to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case.

Boris Johnson (July 2016 to July 2018)

Mr Johnson took up Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case when he arrived at the Foreign Office, including raising the prospect of settling the tank debt, but then set it back in November 2017 when he told a select committee, incorrectly, that she had been training journalists in Iran. Despite him apologising and correcting his statement, the remarks were seized upon by Tehran in a court hearing days later with the British Iranian mother. When the story of a possible deal was linked to The Sun, this raised hopes with her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, but it did not come to fruition.

Jeremy Hunt (July 2018 to July 2019)

In his year in office Mr Hunt took a more public campaigning approach to the case, meeting with Mr Ratcliffe and the couple’s daughter Gabriella, and pushing the Iranian regime for her freedom. He also granted Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic status, against the advice of Foreign Office officials, according to the family’s MP Tulip Siddiq. But Mr Hunt refused to link the tank deal to her detention, saying that the UK does not pay ransom money. In September 2019, Iran’s foreign minister Mr Zarif claimed Mr Johnson and Mr Hammond had both wanted to discuss a deal in which the tank debt would be paid in return for her release, but that Mr Hunt had taken this off the table.

Dominic Raab (July 2019 to September 2021)

Mr Raab laid a lot of the groundwork for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release, raising her case every week with Tehran. It had been agreed before his tenure that the debt would be repaid, but not how. Mr Raab negotiated on the Iranian side for the money to be used for humanitarian purposes. He was also insistent that the debt would not be repaid unless Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anoosheh Ashoori and Morad Tahbaz were at the very least released from prison.

Liz Truss (September 2021 – present)

On her first day in office, Ms Truss told officials her number one priority was to secure the release of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other detained dual nationals. She built up a close working relationship with Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who was also new in his post, when the pair met at the UN General Assembly in New York last September, and they agreed to accelerate discussions over a deal linked to the tank debt. Ms Truss also forged a crucial link with Oman’s foreign minister, Sayyid Badr Albusaidi, whose government has close relationships with both the UK and Iran. Mr Badr Albusaidi was the key go-between in the final stages of the negotiations.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “All the Foreign Secretaries who have taken on this role have worked hard with officials to secure the release.

“It has been extremely complicated, it has been extremely difficult work that has been the culmination of work that has continued over a number of years, but there is no doubt that this has been a priority for the Foreign Secretaries, for the Foreign Office, and we are pleased that she is now back home.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

close