Posts Tagged ‘British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’

Boris Johnson accused of making misleading Russia Novichok claim in interview

April 4, 2018

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has come in for criticism over a DW interview in which he said he had been assured the nerve agent came from Russia. However, UK government scientists have said they do not know.

Johnson’s comments to DW were met with skepticism on Wednesday, after scientists said they could not be sure that the toxin used against former Russian agent Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, had come from Russia.

The comments that drew criticism of Johnson were made by him in a DW interview last month, when the British foreign minister was asked how he knew Russia was the source of the Novichok nerve agent.

“How did you manage to find out so quickly? Does Britain possess samples of this?” DW’s Zhanna Nemtsova asked Johnson in the DW video.

After a lengthy preamble about his efforts to improve relations with Russia, Johnson appeared to return to the subject of whether Russia was responsible.

“When I look at the evidence, the people from Porton Down, the laboratory… they were absolutely categorical, I mean, I asked the guy myself, I said, ‘are you sure?’ and he said ‘there’s no doubt.’ And so, we have very little alternative but to take the action that we have taken.”

Porton Down Science Campus near Salisbury, EnglandPorton Down research center near Salisbury, England

Britain’s Porton Down biological and chemical weapons laboratory on Tuesday announced that the toxin was in a category of Soviet-era nerve agents called Novichok, although they could not yet determine whether it was made in Russia. It prompted criticism of Johnson for his previous comments.

Russia strongly rejects the claim that it is responsible for the poisoning.

Questions over source

Among those hauling Johnson over the coals for his DW interview was the oppostion Labour Party Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, who retweeted a post featuring an edited clip from the interview.

Speaking on Wednesday, Abbott questioned why Johnson had made such a robust assertion that Putin was responsible when Prime Minister Theresa May had taken the more cautious approach “with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.”

Diane Abbott


FCO tweet deleted. Porton Down do not say ‘produced in Russia’. Assume Foreign Secretary wishes his interview with same claims could also be deleted. 

“[May] was quite careful in her initial statement. But Boris Johnson apparently going on international media and saying he was 101 percent certain it was Putin – I don’t understand where he got that information from,” Abbott told the BBC.

Abbott added that she hoped Labour would “get some credit for taking a more thoughtful approach and asking the right questions.”

While many Western countries have shown solidarity with Britain over the poisoning incident, withdrawing diplomats from Russia, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has raised doubts that Putin was responsible, instead suggesting it could have been the work of “mafia-like groups” in Russia.

Skripal and his daughter Yulia have been in hospital since they were found unconscious in the southern English city of Salisbury on March 4. The 33-year-old Yulia is said to be improving, while her 66-year-old father remains in a stable but critical condition.



‘We will all end up paying for this’: Russians resent ‘diplomats’ expelled — Those ‘Spyish looking’ people ‘not spies’

March 29, 2018

By Nick Miller
Sydney Morning Herald

London: It may be fair, but it feels cruel.

With more than 100 Russian “diplomats” getting the shove from 27 embassies around the world, many ordinary Russians are furious at, and bewildered by, the world’s governments turning against them.

They say they don’t believe Russia poisoned ex-spy Sergei Skripal.

This is clearly wishful thinking, or evidence of omission, disinformation or distortion by Russian media. The case against Russia, as set out by the UK’s Foreign Office, is convincing, if circumstantial.

Just overnight, experts found strong traces of the Novichok nerve agent on Skripal’s front door.

But the Russian people don’t see it. They say they’ve been shown no evidence: no pictures, no documents, no independent analysis. Such big accusations and retaliations require more than just UK officials’ say-so. True or not, without an independent verdict it feels like aggression, they say.

Image result for British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, photos,
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has gone on the offensive about Russia.Photo: Bloomberg

So Putin may end up the winner – again – with another chance to stoke the “NATO belligerence” narrative that props up his authoritarian, nationalistic rule.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the UK’s chief diplomat not known for his diplomacy, twisted the knife on Wednesday.

He boasted that the lightsaber (the Star Wars prop, made in the UK since 1977) was a more powerful weapon than Novichok. He even quoted Russia’s culture against them, saying Russia’s denial and obfuscation on the Skripal case were “rather like the beginning of [Dostoevsky’s] Crime and Punishment, in the sense that we are all confident of the culprit and the only question is whether he will confess or be caught”.

Police officers and riot police officers stand outside the Russian embassy in Paris, after France expelled diplomats in a coordinated action.Photo: AP

Through the wave of diplomatic expulsions the world was saying “enough” to Russian provocations not just in Salisbury but in Syria, Crimea, eastern Ukraine and Montenegro, to cyber attacks and election interference, Johnson said.

But a Russian professional working in London said ordinary Russians felt the diplomatic action against them this week was cruelly timed.

On Sunday evening a horrific fire in a Siberian shopping centre killed at least 64 people – 41 of them children.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with local officials after visiting a memorial for the victims of a fire in a multi-storey shopping centre in the Siberian city of Kemerovo.Photo: AP

Normally a tragedy of this scale would generate international sympathy. Instead, the next day 18 countries announced the biggest expulsion of diplomats since the height of the Cold War.

Veteran London-based Russian journalist Mikhail Ozerov said the majority of ordinary Russians are sure that their government is not responsible for Skripal’s death.

“They think that it is the beginning of the Cold War that some western countries, first of all America and the UK, have started,” he said. “Many people even call the attack on Skripals ‘the provocation’. And the expulsion of Russian diplomats is just one more step in escalation of today’s situation.”

Other Russians who spoke to Fairfax Media – smart, informed Russians – were also unimpressed.

“I am for balanced and fair relations,” said one. “Why, without any proof, are you making these accusations? You’re sure, but you can’t prove it? … I am not defending our authorities but I am for a proper investigation.”

Said another: “The only explanation I can find for myself is that it’s the reaction of Western countries to Putin’s election. They don’t say it directly but show it in this way. Otherwise, it looks more than strange.”

A third complained it had boosted Putin’s support at last week’s election: “You should have seen what went on at the polling stations. People were taking selfies with portraits of the ‘tsar’. And that was in Moscow. There’s even more support for him in the regions. We will all end up paying for this.”

Just 5 per cent of Russians find the UK’s accusations plausible, according to a survey conducted last week by Russia’s state-run pollster, VTsIOM.

Almost two in five surveyed said the most likely explanation for the Skripal poisoning was “an attempted assassination by opponents of the current Russian leadership”.

Of the rest, 17 per cent believed it a “criminal incident not connected with politics”, 9 per cent thought it an “accident” and just 3 per cent agreed it was a “murder committed by Russian special services”. One third did not know.

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Russia’s ambassador to Australia, Grigory Logvinov.Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

These numbers help explain the apparently bizarre performance of Grigory Lovinov, Russia’s ambassador to Australia, at a marathon press conference on Wednesday.

Lovinov is a veteran of Russian diplomacy but he moves with the times.

As NATO’s Stratcom taskforce explained last week, Russian propaganda tactics now are to “react as fast as possible to regain the initiative (and) put the most professional players into the field”.

Stratcom’s experts publish a “weekly update on pro-Kremlin disinformation” and they say they have seen, in the last week, “the Russian Foreign Ministry, embassies, top-level diplomats, main state-controlled TV channels and global companies like Russia Today and Sputnik … all involved in delivering multiple theories on the [Skripal] poisoning”.

The Kremlin’s aim is confusion, Stratcom says.

“[They are] busy playing for time. The starting point – Russia denying its involvement in the poisoning but having no solid arguments to back its claim – is a weak one. But by distracting the audience, the disinformation campaign is falling back on familiar tactics and trying hard to turn a weakness into an asset.”

Expect to hear more from Russia’s ambassador.

He is speaking for his country, in more ways than one.

– with Helen Womack

See also:

Russian Ambassador to Australia — ‘Spyish looking’ people in Russian embassy photos ‘not spies’

UK’s Johnson meets Myanmar’s Suu Kyi on Rohingya crisis

February 11, 2018


© AFP | British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (C) meets with Rohingya refugees at a camp in Bangladesh
NAYPYIDAW (MYANMAR) (AFP) – Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson met with Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar’s capital on Sunday to press for action on the Rohingya crisis, as the country faces mounting pressure to punish troops accused of atrocities against the Muslim minority.Johnson spoke with the embattled Myanmar leader, whose reputation among the international community has plunged over her handling of the crisis, in Naypyidaw while on a four-day tour in Asia.

The meeting followed Johnson’s visit to a refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, where nearly 700,000 Rohingya have sought sanctuary in squalid settlements since a Myanmar army crackdown in northern Rakhine last August.

 Image result for Boris Johnson met with Aung San Suu Kyi, photos, february 2018

The UN has accused Myanmar of driving the Muslim minority across the border in an ethnic cleansing campaign. Doctors Without Borders estimates at least 6,700 Rohingya died in the first month of violence.

But Myanmar has staunchly denied the charges and blocked UN investigators from the conflict zone, souring relations with a host of western allies.

Fresh reports of mass graves in Rakhine — and the arrest of two Reuters journalists investigating an alleged massacre — have heaped new pressure on Suu Kyi to condemn the army, who she is in a delicate power-sharing arrangement with.

Image result for Boris Johnson met with Aung San Suu Kyi, photos, february 2018

But the Nobel laureate has refused to change tack and is accused by critics of bunkering down in a siege mentality.

On Sunday Johnson and Suu Kyi “discussed in an open and friendly manner the latest developments in Rakhine State, including planning for the reception of returnees who fled”, Myanmar’s foreign ministry said in a Facebook post alongside photos of the pair meeting.

Ahead of the talks the UK’s foreign office said Johnson would press for an “end to the suffering in Rakhine and the safe and voluntary return of the refugees”.

Johnson is scheduled to visit Rakhine later on Sunday.

Myanmar and Bangladesh have inked a deal to bring refugees back to northern Rakhine, but repatriation has yet to begin.

Many Rohingya do not feel safe returning to a country where they have faced violent persecution and decades of discrimination at the hands of a state that has denied them citizenship.

Others have no home to return to after their villages were torched in the military crackdown.

Johnson is scheduled to fly on to Bangkok Sunday for a two-day visit that will include meetings with junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha and the Thai chairman of an advisory board on the Rohingya crisis.

Veteran US diplomat Bill Richardson dramatically stepped down from the board last month, saying he could not in “good conscience” sit on a panel he feared would only “whitewash” the causes of the Rohingya crisis.

Boris Johnson clashes with Russian Sergei Lavrov over election meddling — ‘Sergei, it’s your reputation I’m worried about’

December 23, 2017

Moscow: Boris Johnson confronted Russia on Friday over attempts to meddle in British elections as his Moscow visit descended into a slanging match.

The Foreign Secretary said Russia tried to derail British democracy, prompting Sergei Lavrov, his counterpart, to accuse him of “making up” allegations of interference in Brexit.

The exchanges, played out in front of journalists and diplomats, saw the men accuse each other of dishonesty.

As Mr Lavrov denied any undermining of Britain’s democratic processes by computer hacking, Mr Johnson interrupted, saying none of the attempts had been successful and pointedly referred to Russian interference in elections around the world.

Mr Johnson refused to answer when asked if he trusted Mr Lavrov, despite the Russian minister saying he trusted the Foreign Secretary. Mr Johnson later joked that he had handed his coat and hat to Mr Lavrov in a show of trust and affection.

“There was nothing in the pockets,” Mr Lavrov said, prompting Mr Johnson to reply in surprise: “You’ve checked? How do you know?”

The meeting was an attempt to break the deadlock between the two states before talks on North Korea and Syria. But tensions rose after Mr Johnson said ahead of the visit that the UK was ready and able to respond to Russian aggression at any moment.

Mr Lavrov said: “Our relations are at a low level, and not because of our side.” He added: “You prefer to talk about the reasons publicly. Whereas we would prefer to talk about our reasons not through the microphone but directly.”

The row was reignited when Mr Lavrov claimed Mr Johnson had deliberately contradicted him in a bid to protect his reputation with the British media, prompting the UK foreign secretary to hit back: “Sergei, it’s your reputation I’m worried about”.

He added: “Russian attempts to interfere in our referendums and elections, whatever they might be, have not been successful.” Had they been successful, he said, “that would have been an entirely different matter”.

Mr Lavrov responded: “I think you have made all this up in your Western community and unfortunately right now you are hostage to this subject, it is very difficult for you to climb down from the fence.”

The evidence produced so far of Russian attempts at interference amounted to no more than the spending of “a few kopecks” on social media adverts, he said.

“I can’t remember any actions of Russia that would have been aggressive towards the UK,” he added.

“We never accused London of anything. On the contrary we heard some accusations – sometimes in an insulting manner – against us that we allegedly support the criminal regime in Syria, that we are aggressors and occupiers and annex someone’s territories.”

In a move likely to further aggravate his hosts, Mr Johnson laid roses on a Moscow bridge where opposition leader Alexander Nemtsov was murdered in 2015. An admirer of Margaret Thatcher, he had tried to make Russia a more democratic and free market state.

Telegraph, London

Includes video:

Boris Johnson confronts Moscow over allegations of Brexit meddling

December 22, 2017

Boris Johnson’s visit to Moscow descended into a slanging match as the Russians accused him of “making up” allegations of Brexit meddling in an ugly public disagreement.

Mr Johnson’s trip to Moscow, the first undertaken by a UK foreign secretary in five years, was aimed at breaking the deadlock between the two nations.

But the Foreign secretary and his counterpart traded blows over allegations of Russian hacking in British elections as Mr Johnson became the first to officially call the nation out on its actions.

The extraordinary exchanges, which played out in front of journalists and diplomats, saw the two men accuse each other of being dishonest as Mr Lavrov claimed there had been no attempts to derail the British democratic process via cyber hacking.

Interrupting, Mr Johnson rejected the claim, stating instead that none of the attempts had been successful and pointedly referring to widespread Russian interference in elections around the world.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, right, meets his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, right, meets his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow CREDIT:ANDREW PARSONS FOR THE TELEGRAPH

It came as Mr Johnson refused pointedly to answer when asked if he trusted his counterpart Sergei Lavrov or not, despite the Russian minister saying that he did.

Later, as the two men wrapped up the press conference after a two hour bi-lateral meeting which was at times fraught, the British foreign secretary joked that he had handed his coat and hat over to Mr Lavrov in a show of trust and affection.

“There was nothing in the pockets”, Mr Lavrov said, prompting Mr Johnson to reply in surprise: “You’ve checked. How do you know!”.

Boris Johnson, left, and Sergei Lavrov during a press conference following their meeting in Moscow
Boris Johnson, left, and Sergei Lavrov during a press conference following their meeting in MoscowCREDIT: ANDREW PARSONS FOR THE TELEGRAPH

The meeting in Moscow was an attempt to break the deadlock between the two states in order to start work on important international issues like North Korea and Syria.

But tensions were exposed over cyber security, following claims made by Mr Johnson ahead of the visit that the UK is ready and able to respond to Russian aggression at any moment.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Mr Lavrov pointed remarked on the press coverage of the poor relations between the countries, telling Mr Johnson and the British delegation: “Our relations are at a low level, and not because of our side”

He added: “You prefer to talk about the reasons publicly.

“Whereas we would prefer to talk about our reasons for mutual concern not through the microphone but directly.”

Boris Johnson and Sergei Lavrov enter a hall during a meeting in Moscow
Boris Johnson and Sergei Lavrov enter a hall during a meeting in Moscow CREDIT: ANDREW PARSONS FOR THE TELEGRAPH

The row was reignited during a later press conference when Mr Lavrov claimed Mr Johnson had deliberately contradicted him in a bid to protect his reputation with the British media, prompting the UK foreign secretary to hit back: “It’s your reputation I’m worried about Sergei”.

He added: “Russian attempts to interfere in our referendums and elections, whatever they might be, have not been successful.”

Had they been successful, he said, “that would have been an entirely different matter”.

Mr Lavrov responded that “the absence of action can never result in anything” and asked to see “concrete facts” about their alleged unsuccessful attempts.

“I think you have made all this up in your Western community and unfortunately right now you are hostage to this subject, it is very difficult for you to climb down from the fence you have climbed.”

The evidence produced so far of Russian attempts at interference amounted to no more than the spending of “a few kopecks” on social media adverts, he said.

Mr Lavrov also criticised Britain for cutting off ties with the FSB security agency over the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London, complaining that UK authorities had refused to hand over information in the case.

He said that the takeover of Crimea had been approved by a referendum of its citizens unlike the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

Boris Johnson and Sergey Lavrov
Boris Johnson and Sergey Lavrov meet in Moscow CREDIT: REUTERS

And he said that UK government criticism of politicians who speak to Russian media outlets like the RT TV channel did not reflect well on the UK, after David Gauke accused the station of being a propaganda tool.

“We are concerned that the cradle of democracy, the United Kingdom, sees the vilifying of people for speaking to Russian media,” he said. “It doesn’t add to the good reputation of the Government unfortunately.”

Mr Lavrov protested that Russia had done nothing to deserve its reputation for hostility towards the UK.

“I can’t remember any actions of Russia that would have been aggressive towards the UK,” he said.

“We never accused London of anything. On the contrary we heard some accusations – sometimes formulated in an insulting manner – against us that we allegedly support the criminal regime in Syria, that we are aggressors and occupiers and annex someone’s territories.

“We hear aggressive statements from London, from the media, from the leadership and from officials. Despite all that, we have never taken aggressive measures to reciprocate.”


UK’s Boris Johnson to Russia: Stop destabilizing Europe or else

December 22, 2017

MOSCOW (Reuters) – British foreign minister Boris Johnson will tell his Russian counterpart on Friday that there can be no “business as usual” until Moscow stops “destabilising” Europe and that Britain is ready to retaliate against any cyber attacks..Johnson is due to hold talks in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during what is the first visit to Russia by a British foreign minister in five years. He is also expected to meet Kremlin critics, students, and gay rights activists..

Johnson’s visit comes at a time when relations between London and Moscow are strained by differences over Ukraine and Syria as well as by allegations, which Russia flatly denies, of it meddling in the politics of various European countries and of backing cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns.

“Our relations with Russia cannot be ‘business as usual’ whilst Russia continues to attempt to destabilise European states, including Ukraine,” Johnson said in a statement released by his office before the talks.

 Image result for Lavrov, Boris Johnson, photos
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson enter a hall during a meeting in Moscow, Russia December 22, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

While traveling to Moscow on Thursday, Johnson told reporters that Britain disapproved of many things that Russia had done. He singled out its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, what he called Moscow’s destabilising of the western Balkans, and its cyber activities.

“As you would expect the UK has its own (cyber) capabilities and we are ready of course to defend our interests,” he said.

But Johnson also stressed his desire for London and Moscow to cooperate where they have common interests, saying it was vital for international security that the two countries talk to each other because not doing so risked potentially dangerous misunderstandings.

Johnson says he wants to discuss working with Moscow to preserve the Iran nuclear deal and the threat posed by North Korea, as well as security arrangements for next year’s soccer World Cup which will be held in Russia.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that the decision to scale back British-Russian dialogue had been London’s however, and had been groundless and untimely.

Johnson riled Russian officials before his visit by likening Russia to the ancient Greek city state of Sparta in an interview with Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper, saying Moscow was “closed, nasty, militaristic and anti-democratic – like Sparta.”

Zakharova has previously called Johnson unprofessional, organized an online cartoon competition that mocked him, and strongly disputed his assertions about Syria.

When asked before his trip what she made of Johnson’s statements criticizing Moscow, Zakharova said they had caused only laughter in Russia and were not worth getting upset about because they had come from Boris Johnson.

Reporting by Andrew Osborn Additional reporting by William James in London; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt/Dmitry Solovyov

See also:

Boris Johnson claims Russia’s hostility to UK and West is as bad as Cold War

Reaction To Boris Johnson’s Diplomatic Trip To Iran: British-Iranian aid worker will be treated as an Iranian citizen by the judiciary

December 11, 2017

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Iran will treat a British-Iranian aid worker as an Iranian citizen and she will serve her sentence as determined by the judiciary, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson discussed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case with Iranian officials after flying to Tehran over the weekend to try to seek her release.

“One of the issues that Johnson brought up in Tehran was the issue of Ms. Zaghari,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi was quoted by state media as saying.

Boris Johnson holds ‘frank’ talks with Iran minister about jailed British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe — Seen here with Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif, December 10, 2017

“With regard to her dual nationality, from our point of view of course she is Iranian and she has been sentenced by the judiciary and she will serve the period of her sentence.”

Britain says Zaghari-Ratcliffe was visiting family on holiday in April 2016 when she was jailed by Iran for attempting to overthrow the government.

She is not the only dual national being held in Iran, but her case has taken on political significance in Britain after Johnson said last month that she had been teaching journalists in Iran, which her employer denies. Johnson later apologized.

Opponents have called for him to resign if his comments lead to her serving longer in prison.

Qassemi said the Iranian foreign ministry would follow up on Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case but said that it was ultimately a matter for the judiciary.

A project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted by an Iranian court of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment. She denies the charges.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is a charity organization that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News. It says Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been on holiday and had not been teaching journalism in Iran.

Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh, Editing by William Maclean


BBC News

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: What is Iran jail case about?

  • 10 December 2017
Nazanin Zaghari-RatcliffeImage copyrightPA

It has been 20 months since jailed mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained at an Iranian airport while travelling home to London with her young daughter.

Since her arrest on 3 April 2016, the British-Iranian charity worker has been sentenced to five years in prison – for allegedly plotting against the Iranian government.

She maintains her innocence, saying she was on holiday in Iran visiting family.

Her supporters are hopeful of movement after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson visited Tehran and met his counterpart as well as President Hassan Rouhani, and pressed for her release on humanitarian grounds.

Here are the details of the case.

Who is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe?

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, has dual British and Iranian citizenship, and before her arrest lived in London with accountant husband Richard Ratcliffe.

She worked as a project manager for the charity Thomson Reuters Foundation and was previously employed by BBC Media Action, an international development charity.

She says she took her daughter Gabriella, three, to Iran in March 2016 to celebrate the country’s new year and visit her parents.

What is she accused of?

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter GabriellaImage copyrightAFP/GETTY IMAGES
Image captionNazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is serving a five-year sentence in Iran

Iranian authorities allege Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was plotting to topple the government in Tehran – but no official charges have been made public.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said she was visiting Iran leading a “foreign-linked hostile network”.

Both her employers, Thomson Reuters Foundation and BBC Media Action, have issued statements saying she was not working in Iran but was on holiday there.

Mr Ratcliffe said he had asked his wife what the charges were during a phone call in 2016, and a nearby prison guard had said: “National security charges”.

Mr Ratcliffe said she could face a second charge of “spreading propaganda,” which could add another five years to her sentence.

The new charges come after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson suggested Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been “teaching journalism” in Tehran, which he later apologised for.

What happened after her arrest?

  • April-June 2016: According to Mr Ratcliffe, his wife was subject to “intense interrogation” for the first two months of her imprisonment and kept in solitary confinement
  • September 2016: Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is sentenced to five years in prison in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court
  • January 2017: She loses an initial appeal against her sentence
  • April 2017: Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe loses a final appeal in Iran’s supreme court to overturn her sentence

What has Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe said?

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who maintains her innocence, mostly speaks publicly through her husband, who regularly calls her in prison.

According to Mr Ratcliffe, she says she misses Gabriella “all the time” and is in a “pretty fragile” state of mental health. Doctors recently found lumps in her breasts, which were not found to be cancerous, he said.

She recently told her husband and supporters over the phone during a rally in London: “It has been really difficult for me to be in prison.”

What has the UK government done?

Boris Johnson: “I apologise to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe”

Exit player

Media captionBoris Johnson: “I apologise to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe”

Prime Minister Theresa May “raised concerns” in the early stages of the case with Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani. The UK Foreign Office said it was “deeply concerned” by her sentence – and said ministers would continue to raise the case with Iranian officials.

But the British government is in difficult position – Iran refuses to recognise dual nationals and denies them access to consular assistance.

Soon after Mr Johnson’s comments, which suggested Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists, Iran moved to double her prison sentence. The foreign secretary later stated in the Commons that he had “no doubt” she was on holiday and had called Tehran to clarify.

Mr Johnson visited Tehran and met his counterpart as well as President Hassan Rouhani, and pressed for her release on humanitarian grounds, in early December 2017.

The Foreign Office is now considering whether it will give diplomatic protection to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe – making the case a formal, legal dispute between Britain and Iran.

What are the politics behind her case?

Why one mother’s personal plight is part of a complicated history between Iran and the UK

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s five-year-sentence was handed down on 6 September – one day after the UK appointed an ambassador to Iran for the first time since 2011.

Mr Ratcliffe cites the timing as proof his wife is being held as a political bargaining chip.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Caroline Hawley said London and Tehran do not see eye-to-eye on Iran’s role in the wider Middle East or on human rights.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are hardliners, opposed to Iran’s nuclear deal struck by moderates with the west in 2015. And in 2009, Britain was accused of fuelling unprecedented street protests.

How is the campaign to free her progressing?

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe speaks on phone during march

Mr Ratcliffe has petitioned the UK government to help free his wife, making numerous TV appearances and visiting Downing Street.

Actress Emma Thompson turned out to a march he organised in London in November urging her release – despite suffering a bout of pneumonia. “I can’t not come to speak,” she told BBC News. “Because I’m free. I’m free.”

Tulip Siddiq, the couple’s constituency MP, said the latest charges brought against her were “an outrage and must not be allowed to stand”.

Mr Ratcliffe met with Mr Johnson in November and discussed the possibility of a joint trip to Iran before the end of the year – but Mr Johnson went alone.

Others imprisoned in Iran

Kamal ForoughiImage copyrightCENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAN
Image captionBritish-Iranian consultant Kamal Foroughi was jailed in 2011 and accused of spying

An estimated 12 to 30 dual nationals from Britain and other western nations are imprisoned in Iran accused of espionage, although exact numbers are unclear. Many of their relatives think they are being held for political reasons.

Another British-Iranian national to be arrested is Kamal Foroughi, 78, who was working in Tehran as a consultant but thrown in jail in 2011 and later accused of spying.

Speaking to the BBC in 2015, his son Kamran said the family still did not understand why he was being held.

Chinese-American student, Xiyue Wang, has been held since the summer on unspecified espionage charges. An Iranian Appeals Court in September upheld a 10-year prison sentence against the doctoral student.

UK pushes for trade talks to solve Northern Ireland border issue — “There’s a sense of jumping into the dark here.” — Johnson and Coveney publicly disagree on a series of issues during early morning press conference

November 17, 2017


Image result for Simon Coveney, boris johnson, photos

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson


DUBLIN (AFP) – British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Friday called on Brussels to move on to post-Brexit trade talks to solve the Irish border issue, despite a warning from the EU that London still had work to do.

“The issues of the Northern Irish border and how it works are intellectually, intimately bound up with the questions of the customs union, the single market, Britain’s relationship with those.

“Those questions have been reserved by the (European) Commission for study in stage two of the negotiations. I think logically now is the time to proceed to stage two,” Johnson said at a Dublin press conference with his Irish counterpart Simon Coveney.

Deciding the future of Britain’s only land border with the European Union has been a top priority for Brussels, with all sides determined to avoid a return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“We need to get on with this, but our view is that you can only really crack the problem in the context of a wider understanding of how the new customs arrangements are going to work,” said Johnson.

– May under pressure? –

The foreign minister’s comments followed a warning from European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, who on Friday said Britain must do “more work” before moving onto trade talks.

“The clock is ticking. I hope that we will be able to come to an agreement as far as the divorce is concerned at the December council (summit) but work has still to be done,” Juncker told reporters as he arrived at an EU summit in Gothenburg, Sweden.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Brexit minister, David Davis, are also in Gothenburg for the ?European Social Summit.

After London failed to convince Brussels last month that sufficient progress had been made in divorce talks to move onto negotiating a future trade deal, Davis on Friday called on the EU to compromise.

“Surprise, surprise: nothing comes for nothing in this world,” he told the BBC in Gothenburg.

Various EU countries “can see there are big, big benefits in the future deal that we’re talking about,” he added.

Arriving at the summit, May said she hoped the EU would respond “positively” to British proposals so that negotiators could move on to discuss future ties.

The prime minister is reportedly under pressure from Johnson and fellow Brexiteer Michael Gove, Britain’s environment minister, who according to a leaked memo have tried to instruct her on how to run the exit negotiations.


Boris Johnson visits Simon Coveney in Dublin… and they’re already disagreeing in early morning press conference

Johnson and Coveney publicly disagree on a series of issues during early morning press conference

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson6
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A massive gulf between Ireland and the UK in the Brexit negotiations was in clear evidence as Boris Johnson arrived in Dublin today.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney publicly disagreed on a series of issues during an early morning press conference.

In particular Mr Johnson said the future of the border region cannot be decided until the second phase of the Brexit talks.

Asked to offer up even a hypothetical vision of how a ‘frictionless border’ might work, Mr Johnson said the British government’s view “is you can only really crack the problem” in the second phase of the talks.

Boris Johnson visits Dublin (Photo: Gerry Mooney)66
Boris Johnson visits Dublin (Photo: Gerry Mooney)

By contrast Mr Coveney said: “The parameters [of how a post-Brexit border might work] need to be a lot clearer and more credible before we go on to phase two.”

The European Council will meet next month to decide whether the talks should move past negotiations on the so-called divorce bill, citizens’ rights and the Irish question.

Boris Johnson visits Dublin (Photo: Gerry Mooney)66
Boris Johnson visits Dublin (Photo: Gerry Mooney)

Mr Coveney admitted there is “an impasse” in relation to the border and urged the UK government to consider keeping Northern Ireland in the customs union.

The minister said everybody wants the talks to progress but “we are not in a place right now that allows us to do that”.

Boris Johnson visits Dublin (Photo: Gerry Mooney)66
Boris Johnson visits Dublin (Photo: Gerry Mooney)

Mr Coveney also called for a lengthy transitional period of up to five years to allow businesses adjust to life after Brexit.

This was rejected by Mr Johnson who said he was unaware that IReland support “such a long transitional period”.

He said the “maximum reassurance” for companies and people can be provided “in a much shorter timescale”.

Mr Johnson said Brexit should “proceed as fast as possible”.

Despite the clear diplomatic split emerging between Dublin and London, Mr Johnson did reiterate that the UK has “no interest whatsoever in seeing a hard border”.

But Mr Coveney responded that the challenge is to find “a credible roadmap to get us there”.

“There’s a sense of jumping into the dark here,” he said.

Separately Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is meeting British Prime Minister Theresa May in Gothenburg today.

Online Editors

US ‘will not turn blind eye’ as Iran supplies missiles

November 8, 2017
JEDDAH: The US accused Iran on Tuesday of breaking international law by supplying ballistic missiles fired at Saudi Arabia, and said the US would “not turn a blind eye to these serious violations.”
“By providing these types of weapons to the Houthi militias in Yemen, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is violating two UN resolutions simultaneously,” said Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN.
“We encourage the UN and international partners to take the necessary action to hold the Iranian regime accountable.”
Iran supplied missiles fired at Makkah in July, and most recently at Riyadh last Saturday. Both were launched from Yemen. The Houthis boasted on Tuesday that they had ballistic missiles with a range of 1,500km and threatened to attack more cities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Col. Aziz Rashed, an army spokesman with a Houthi-allied unit, warned travelers to stay away from Saudi and UAE airports. “All airports, ports, border crossings and areas of any importance to Saudi Arabia and the UAE will be a direct target of our weapons,” a Houthi spokesman told reporters in Sanaa, according to The Associated Press.
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Haley has accused Iran in the past of illegal arms deals and military support in Yemen, Lebanon and Syria, and has repeatedly called on the UN Security Council to take a tougher stance.
Under the UN Security Council resolution that enshrines the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Tehran is prohibited from supplying, selling or transferring weapons outside the country unless approved in advance by the Security Council.
A separate UN resolution on Yemen bans the supply of weapons to militia chief Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, two Houthi commanders, Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, his son, and “those acting on their behalf or at their direction.”
Washington’s options now are to ask the Security Council’s 15-member Yemen sanctions committee to blacklist individuals or groups, or to seek a new Security Council resolution to impose sanctions on Iran. The latter is likely to be vetoed by Russia, according to a Reuters report.
In a phone conversation on Monday night, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that the involvement of the Iranian regime in supplying Houthi militias with missiles “is considered a direct military aggression by the Iranian regime and may be considered an act of war against the Kingdom.”
Johnson condemned the missile launch against Riyadh last Saturday and the deliberate targeting of civilians, and said Britain stood with Saudi Arabia in confronting security threats.
The missile launch was “most likely a war crime,” Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday, and was carried out by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said. “It was an Iranian missile launched by Hezbollah from territory occupied by the Houthis in Yemen,” Al-Jubeir said in an interview with CNN on Monday.
In the US, Pentagon spokesman Marine Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway said Saudi Arabia had exposed Iran’s “malign role in Yemen” and its provision of dangerous missile systems to Houthi militants. “We continue to maintain strong defense ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and work together on common security priorities to include combat operations against violent extremist organizations, and neutralizing Iran’s destabilizing influence in the Middle East region,” he said.
In Riyadh, Canadian Ambassador Dennis Horak condemned the missile attack on the city. “This attack constitutes a serious escalation in the conflict and poses a growing risk to regional stability and security,” he said in a written statement to Arab News.
“The intentional targeting of civilians cannot be tolerated and Canada calls on the Houthi rebels and their supporters to refrain from such indiscriminate attacks against civilians in both Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said: “It is clear that the leadership in Tehran is shipping more advanced missiles to Houthi militias with the specific aim of targeting major Saudi cities, such as Riyadh.
“Iran is already banned from proliferating advanced missiles to regional terrorist organizations like Lebanese Hezbollah, but they continue to move these deadly weapon systems which are ultimately used as a terror weapon to target civilians. The Houthi militias are copying Hezbollah’s playbook. The only real solution is to neutralize the problem at its source — the missile shipping and manufacturing centers in Iran.”
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani “care little about UN Security Council Resolutions where they can count on the Russian veto,” Shahbandar said.
“The only language they truly understand is that of power and deterrence. They must be made to believe that they have crossed a red line and that any further strategic missile strikes will be met with a crippling response.”

Johnson accused of jeopardising case of Briton in Iran jail

November 7, 2017


© Free Nazanin campaign/AFP/File | Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British citizen, is being held in Iran on charges of taking part in a “sedition movement” of protests

LONDON (AFP) – British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson faced calls to quit Tuesday over a “slip of the tongue” that Iran is now using to partly justify further charges against an Iranian-British national detained in Tehran.

Johnson told a parliamentary committee last week that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists in Iran when she was arrested for alleged sedition last year — something her employer and her family insist is incorrect.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe appeared in court on Saturday to face further charges, brought in early October, that carry a 16-year jail term.

The Iranian judiciary issued an online article on Sunday saying that Johnson’s comments proved that she wasn’t on holiday, as claimed, backing the justification for new charges.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Johnson’s comments may have been “misrepresented” and provided “no justifiable basis” for additional charges.

Johnson was due to call Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday in a bid to defuse the situation.

Richard Ratcliffe, the detainee’s husband, told AFP that Johnson “made a factual error, and then it felt more ominous on Sunday when that factual error was being used to justify her detention.”

He said that Johnson’s phone call to his Iranian counterpart was “not good enough” and that he needed to officially correct the record to send a message to Iran’s judiciary.

“He made a statement in parliament that’s being manipulated; another statement in parliament is the natural way of clarifying that.”

He added that Saturday’s court appearance had left his wife “very stressed and upset”.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF), the media organisation’s philanthropic arm, was arrested at Tehran airport on April 3, 2016 after visiting family.

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards accused her of having taken part in the “sedition movement” of protests that followed the disputed 2009 re-election of then hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Zaghari-Ratcliffe denies the charges.

She is serving a five-year jail sentence in Tehran but last month was presented with extra charges carrying a possible 16-year prison term, her employers said.

TRF said those charges were that she had joined organisations specifically working to overthrow the regime, referring to her media charity work in London, and that she once attended a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy in Britain’s capital.

– Pressure to quit –

Following Johnson’s comments, TRF chief executive Monique Villa urged him to “immediately correct the serious mistake”.

“She is not a journalist and has never trained journalists at the TRF where she is project manager,” Villa said in a statement.

“She was in Iran on holiday to show her daughter Gabriella to her grandparents.”

Emily Thornberry, foreign affairs spokeswoman for the main opposition Labour Party, wrote to Johnson urging him to quit if his actions have damaged Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s prospects of freedom.

“I hope and trust you will take full responsibility for that,” she said in a letter published by Politics Home.

Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told Sky News television that he did not believe Johnson had made “a serious gaffe”.

Fox said the situation was being used as an attempt to discredit Johnson without thinking of the possible consequences.

“The most important thing is to do what he’s doing today: to make very clear to his Iranian counterpart that this would not be any excuse for extending an illegal detention,” Fox also told BBC radio.

“We all make slips of the tongue. I think we’ve got to be very careful that we’re not over-reacting to this.

“He will determine with the Iranian foreign minister exactly the best way to ensure that she can be released.”