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Johnson had ‘worthwhile’ Iran meetings in bid to secure release of jailed Briton

The Foreign Secretary gave a statement to the Commons on the plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Boris Johnson has said he had “worthwhile” meetings in Iran to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and that the Government “will leave no stone unturned in our efforts”.

The Foreign Secretary added that he did not want to raise false hopes, but said his messages over the British mother had been received and understood by Iranian officials.

It comes as Iran’s foreign ministry said it would raise the case with the judiciary “out of humanitarian concerns” following the visit by Mr Johnson.

Updating MPs about his trip to Iran and other countries in the region, Mr Johnson said: “On bilateral issues, my first priority was the plight of the dual nationals behind bars.

“I urged their release on humanitarian grounds, where there is cause to do so.

“These are complex cases involving individuals considered by Iran to be their own citizens, and I do not wish to raise false hopes.

“But my meetings in Tehran were worthwhile, and while I do not believe it will be in the interests of the individuals concerned or their loved ones to provide a running commentary, the House can be assured that the Government will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to secure their release.”

Mr Johnson said his gaffe of telling a parliamentary committee that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been in Iran to train journalists, which he later acknowledged was not the case, had not affected judicial proceedings in any UK consular case in Iran.

He was asked by the SNP’s international affairs spokesman Stephen Gethins if he made it “crystal clear that his remarks at the Foreign Affairs Committee did not quite reflect why Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was there, and did he make that clear to the Iranians when he met them?”

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Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson recently visited Iran (Chris Ratcliffe/PA)

Mr Johnson replied: “The Iranians have always been clear, indeed they were clear with me again, that none of my remarks in any context had any bearing on any judicial proceedings in relation to any UK consular case.”

The Foreign Secretary did not say whether he requested to see Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, after he was pressed by Labour’s Nick Thomas-Symonds.

Mr Johnson said: “I must just remind (Mr Thomas-Symonds) that the Iranian government does not recognise the dual-national system that we have and therefore do not give consular access, and as for other members of the Zaghari family I think it would be better if I said that I think their privacy should be respected.”

He also told MPs the Government’s policy to try to settle an outstanding debt to Iran had “nothing to do with the difficult consular cases that we face”.

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