Truss to meet Iranian foreign minister over release of detained UK nationals

·4-min read
Liz Truss is to meet the Iranian foreign minister (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Liz Truss is to meet the Iranian foreign minister (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had “good” talks with Liz Truss ahead of her meeting with the Iranian foreign minister to call for the immediate release of detained UK nationals.

Richard Ratcliffe told the Foreign Secretary during a 10-minute phone call on Sunday that his wife’s case should be the top priority and he wanted to see the Government tackle hostage-taking head on.

Ms Truss later said she will push for UK nationals trapped in Iran to be released, during a meeting with Hossein Amir-Abdollahian at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday.

She is expected to bring up the cases of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anoosheh Ashoori and Morad Tahbaz, and will also call on the country to comply with its nuclear commitments.

Richard Ratcliffe spoke to Liz Truss on Sunday (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)
Richard Ratcliffe spoke to Liz Truss on Sunday (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)

Ms Truss said: “I will be asking Iran to ensure the immediate and permanent release of all arbitrarily detained British nationals in Iran, and to begin working with us to mend our fractured relations.

“The UK, US and our international partners are fully committed to a nuclear deal, but every day that Iran continues to delay talks whilst escalating its own nuclear programme means there is less space for diplomacy.”

She had earlier spoken to Mr Ratcliffe while at the airport before leaving for New York, and is said to have shared his concerns about the situation.

Mr Ratcliffe’s wife, a British-Iranian dual national, has been in custody in Iran since 2016 after being accused of plotting to overthrow the government.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been in custody in Iran since 2016 (Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe/PA) (PA Media)
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been in custody in Iran since 2016 (Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe/PA) (PA Media)

Mr Ratcliffe told the PA news agency: “It was nice to hear, considering she is three days into the new job, and is earlier than expected.

“I think it went well overall, she asked me how I wanted to see things – I told her that Nazanin has been used as a bargaining chip of the Iranian government for some time and that I wanted to see Iranian hostage-taking disincentivised.

“She said it is obviously terrible what has happened, as I let her know that as a family we’ve had it hard over the past few years.

“I think she was reasonably open with everything, I know you can’t really tell over the phone, but she let me say my piece and said we should keep in touch over the issue – but it’s too early to tell what will happen yet.”

Mr Ratcliffe earlier said that he had given Ms Truss the names of 10 people he accuses of being involved with “hostage-taking” in Iran.

The plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anoosheh Ashoori and other UK nationals held in Iran has extended across the last four foreign secretaries – it’s long past time that the UK finally brought this deeply distressing episode to an end

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK

He called on the Foreign Secretary to ensure Iran is made aware this is an “unacceptable practice”.

Mr Ratcliffe added: “I thought it was a good phone call, I am pleased it happened, but also surprised that it happened so quickly – I’m sure we’ll have more strident conversations after she has returned from New York.

“The chat was more open than you would have thought, she definitely listened to me which is obviously a good sign early on, but I’m always pessimistic, having had this conversation with her predecessors.

“The situation is still so delicate and ambiguous, however it’s possible that Nazanin could be returned home and it’s possible she could be put back in jail.

“At this stage it would be useful to see more action rather than reassuring words – but this is a positive step, there was a clear dialogue there.”

Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Amnesty International UK, said: “One of the things we’d like to see most urgently from the new Foreign Secretary is a clearly articulated strategy for securing the release of British nationals arbitrarily detained in Iran.

“The plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anoosheh Ashoori and other UK nationals held in Iran has extended across the last four foreign secretaries – it’s long past time that the UK finally brought this deeply distressing episode to an end.”

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