By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met with Iranian President Hassan Rohani in Tehran on December 10 as he continued efforts to gain the release of a jailed Iranian-British woman.
A spokesman for the British Foreign Office said Johnson and Rohani “spoke forthrightly” on several issues, including the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, according to the BBC.
Meanwhile, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said authorities at the last minute canceled a Tehran court date scheduled for December 10 in which Zaghari-Ratcliffe faced fresh charges of “spreading propaganda.”
“Nazanin’s case was not held today in the wake of the foreign secretary’s visit,” Ratcliffe wrote in an e-mail to reporters. “This is undoubtedly a good sign.”
Ratcliffe also said Johnson met with members of Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family in Iran and raised the issue of her case in every meeting he had with the Iranians.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been held since April 2016 for allegedly plotting against Iran’s government, which she denies.
The British foreign secretary’s spokesman described Johnson’s two-day visit — only the third by a British foreign secretary to Iran since 2003 — as “worthwhile,” adding that “progress in all areas” was agreed.
But Johnson was criticized by Iranian officials for not doing more to build on the nuclear deal Tehran signed in 2015 with world powers in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.
Rohani’s office said the Iranian president told Johnson that “relations between the two countries have not matched the potential expected” shortly after the nuclear was signed.
Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, who met with Johnson on December 9, said other European countries have put in “much more effort” to build ties in the aftermath of the nuclear deal.
“You haven’t even solved the banking problems of the Iranian Embassy in London,” Larijani told Johnson, according to Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency.
Johnson met December 9 with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to lobby for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release.
The two men also discussed “the obligations of all parties to implement” the 2015 nuclear accord signed between Iran and six world powers, according to Iran’s Foreign Ministry.
The United States has cast doubt on the future of the deal, which provided Iran with sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities.
However, the other signatories to the accord –Britain, China, Germany, France, and Russia — continue to support the agreement.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly planning the “soft toppling” of Iran’s government while traveling there with her toddler daughter.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charity that operates independently from the Reuters news agency. She insists she was in Iran on a personal visit. The Thomson Reuters Foundation has also said she was not on assignment while in Iran.
Johnson faced calls to resign last month after saying in Parliament that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been “training journalists” in Iran prior to her arrest last year, comments that critics said could lead to an extended prison sentence for her.
He later apologized and said Zaghari-Ratcliffe was not in Iran in a professional capacity.
Iranian officials have cited Johnson’s statement in their effort to bring new propaganda-related charges against Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Iran has held several foreigners on charges such as espionage, many of them Iranians with dual citizenship.
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