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Jeremy Hunt slaps down Nazanin critics after complaints about UK Foreign Office

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe says she is ‘very grateful’ to be home

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who spent six years in Iranian detention on spying charges, was freed from prison last week. Speaking to the media on Monday, March 22, she thanked all those who had worked to help her, but accused the Foreign Office of being too slow in securing her release. After criticism from commentators on social media who argued the 44-year-old should be more grateful to the Government, Mr Hunt, a former foreign secretary himself, said: “She’s absolutely right that it took too long to bring her home.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release came after No10 paid a £400million debt to Iran over a failed arms deal dating back to the 1970s.

Although both countries’ governments have said the two issues should not be linked, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe said she had been told by her captors her imprisonment was connected to the unpaid debt.

Speaking at a press conference in Westminster, central London, the mother-of-one said she had been overcome with emotion to be reunited with her husband and daughter but added: “What’s happened now should have happened six years ago.”

Pointing out there were five foreign secretaries over the six years she was detained in Iran, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe suggested if any of them had stayed in the post longer, they might have made more progress.

She asked: “How many foreign secretaries does it take for someone to come home?”

READ MORE: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reveals she lost faith in Britain saving her

Jeremy Hunt and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt defends Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from social media critics (Image: Getty)

One of the former foreign secretaries she accused of not doing enough to help her is Mr Hunt, who was in office from July 2018 to July 2019 – and he said she is right.

He wrote on Twitter: “I tried my best — as did other foreign secretaries — but if trying our best took six years then we must be honest and say the problem should have been solved earlier. Ministerial turnover may have been a factor.”

However, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he praised Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and the Foreign Office for negotiating Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s and Anoosheh Ashoori’s release, describing it as “an extraordinary achievement”.

Mrs Ashoori was detained in 2017, also on spying charges, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Liz Truss on release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Mr Hunt also told the BBC Prime Minister Boris Johnson “deserves some credit” for authorising the payment of the £400m debt to Iran.

The MP for South West Surrey joined Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family, their MP Tulip Siddiq, and the former Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt in backing calls for an inquiry into what went wrong.

He said: “It is right that an independent investigation now takes place as to what those reasons were, something I would be glad to assist with.

“Such a review also needs to assess whether our current policy is sufficient to stop hostage-taking in the future.

“If democracies can show such impressive unity on Russian sanctions, surely we can do the same to stamp out the 19th-century practice of hostage-taking?”

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband

Zaghari-Ratcliffe told a press conference she should have been released six years ago (Image: Getty)

His words were celebrated by fellow party members.

Tory MP Alicia Kearns said: “The honesty in this thread makes it an important read, I’m sure the Foreign Affairs Committee will launch an inquiry.”

Tom Tugendhat, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, shared Mr Hunt’s tweets and noted: “This is an important thread.”

In his Twitter thread, Mr Hunt said “initial reluctance to pay the debt because people worried it would look like a ransom” probably influenced the long time it took to get Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe back.

He added when speaking to the BBC: “But this is not a ransom, it’s a debt, and I think that decision that we should pay it in principle was taken when I was foreign secretary.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was accused of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government while in Iran in September 2016, followed by a five-year sentence.

Then, in April 2021, she was sentenced to another year on charges of propaganda against the government.

She has consistently denied those allegations and said she was in the country to visit her family.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s remark on the number of foreign ministers over her time in detention highlights a structural problem within Government that could well have made the situation worse.

The average length of a UK secretary of state’s post is, at less than two years, short in itself. The fact that there were three prime ministers will have brought anything but stability and continuity to the Government’s work.



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'Have to kick the pedal to the metal' Ex-Ukrainian leader slams Macron tank aide hesitancy

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Ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk sat down on LBC Radio to discuss NATO leaders. NATO has been allying themselves with Ukraine, sending help and weaponry and taking fleeing Ukrainian refugees. NATO members held a conference on the Russian invasion earlier this week to discuss more ways to help Ukraine.

Mr Yatsenyuk pushed for Macron to send over military tanks as promised, slamming him for dragging his feet, and claiming that the war in Ukraine affects the security of every European country.

Mr Yatsenyuk said: “That’s what Putin is closely watching, as for now, Putin didn’t expect this kind of unity and consolidated and concerted actions against the Russian federation.

“But you know, the time is running and we don’t have enough time to wait until some EU member states decide to supply more weapons to Ukraine.

“Or to impose tougher and stronger sanctions on the Russian Federation, so the EU has to be decisive and they have to speed up the process of new sanctions.

“And the shipment and delivery of weapons to Ukraine, because it’s not just about Ukraina and they realise it clearly, this is about the free world.

“And this is about the security of every single nation in the European Union, so the French have to kick the pedal to the metal.”

JUST IN: Putin’s ‘biggest’ Achilles’ heel exposed as ‘derided’ Russian despot facing furious REVOLT

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky explained this week that he expected “serious steps” from Western-allied countries.

Mr Zelensky repeated the calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine to be imposed by NATO forces and complained that the Western allies had not yet provided Ukraine with sufficient planes, up to date modern anti-missile systems, tanks or anti-ship weapons.

Mr Zelensky added: “At these three summits we will see who is our friend, who is our partner and who sold us out and betrayed us.”

President Zelensky also expressed that he was grateful for the support Ukraine was continuing to receive from individual NATO member countries from around the world.

Mr Zelensky added: “But NATO has yet to show what the alliance can do to save people,” he said. “It feels like we’re in the grey zone between the West and Russia, but we’re protecting all our and your shared values.

READ MORE:Mum left fuming after letter describes her ‘active’ four-year-old daughter as overweight

Mr Johnson added: “We’ve got to tighten the economic vice around Putin, sanctioning more people today, as we are, sanctioning the Wagner Group, looking at what we can do to stop Putin using his gold reserves, and also doing more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has been playing an active role in trying to de-escalate the war with Russia by imposing tight sanctions on Russia to try and stop Putin’s warpath of destruction.

Ms Truss has warned that infighting between NATO countries at the moment could be highly detrimental for progress in ending the war.

Mr Truss said: “Russia’s targeting of critical national infrastructure is calculated and dangerous.

“It shows Putin is prepared to risk lives to sow division and confusion among allies.”



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Brexit news: What happens when Article 16 is triggered?

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After Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) was confirmed, the two parties have been attempting to renegotiate terms for a special Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland. Coined the Northern Ireland protocol it’s been a point of contention that’s led to threats from each side of triggering a mechanism called Article 16. But what is it?

What is Article 16?

The UK and EU agreed to the creation of the Northern Ireland protocol, in October 2019.

By allowing goods to flow freely between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland the deal removed the threat of a hard border.

But the arrangement has also resulted in what’s been labelled as an ‘Irish Sea border’.

READ MORE: ‘Totally undeniable’ MPs colluded with Remainers to try stop Brexit

Goods that now arrive into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK are subjected to more stringent checks and controls.

In the scenario that either the UK or EU feel that the protocol is leading to significant issues or hampering their capacity to trade, then they have the option of activating Article 16.

The component sets out the process for taking unilateral “safeguard” measures, which in reality would amount to suspending parts of the deal.

Specifically, Article 16 says safeguard measures can be taken if the protocol is leading to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties” that are liable to persist.

He said: “Triggering Article 16 now would severely disrupt the unity of the UK and EU response to the war in Ukraine.

“It is thus perhaps not surprising that key US figures chose this week to restate that any uncertainty around the stability of the Good Friday Agreement would hinder a future UK-US trade deal.”

In recent months talks between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic have stalled, leading to calls from Brexiteers for the UK to act.

However, Professor Menon cautioned that triggering Article 16 won’t “rid” Britain of the protocol.

He added: “I think the British Government if it triggers Article 16 will do something relatively small and contained.

“And then there’s not a massive bust-up. You don’t end up getting rid of the protocol. You end up with months if not years of negotiations, mediation and arbitration.

“So, it’s a way of doing something but it’s not a way of solving anything. In a sense you’re still stuck with the protocol and you’re still negotiating about the future of the protocol.”

In essence, were Article 16 to be triggered it wouldn’t have a huge impact on the ground.

Many of the checks on goods flowing from Britain to Northern Ireland have already been unilaterally suspended.

Triggering the mechanism itself would only start a formal dispute process that requires both sides to go into talks to resolve.



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NATO slammed as former US Army chief exposes ‘two big issues’ in united Russia response

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US Army vice chief of staff general Jack Keane, sat down on LBC radio to talk about the NATO conference which took place earlier this week. Mr Keane discussed the possibility that Putin could deploy chemical biological weapons on the battlefield. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already used the highly condemned thermobaric weapons since the war started just over a month ago.

The US Army chief acknowledged there had been no public policy declaration on the consequences Putin would face if he was to take such a barbaric action.

Mr Keane said: “Listen I was very disappointed by the NATO summit.

“I totally applaud the fact that they’re going to increase by 40k troops in Eastern Europe.

“And they’re increasing sanctions and it seems like a sense of unity.

“But on two big issues, it’s got to be disappointing, there’s no NATO public policy declaration.

JUST IN: Putin’s ‘biggest’ Achilles’ heel exposed as ‘derided’ Russian despot facing furious REVOLT

Mr Keane added: “At the end of that summit to deal with this particular issue, chemical biological weapons and nuclear weapons which the Russians have been waving in front of our face now for almost 30 days.

“What we need is… Think policy statement, not something that’s left to a reporter to ask a question on.

“And then you get a statement that you just repeated, which leads to more confirmation than anything else.

“A much better statement, using my words… I don’t want to put words into other people’s mouths.

READ MORE: Mum left fuming after letter describes her ‘active’ four-year-old daughter as overweight

“But with me, the use of any form of WMB would be unacceptable.

“We will not let it stand, it will result in decisive consequential actions and all options are on the table.

“Words to that effect, in a public policy statement, and we didn’t get it and it’s really unfortunate.

“And what it does it leaves in the minds of Putin and his  leaders just what would the reaction be, ambiguous like that and I think it’s very unfortunate.”

DON’T MISS: Russia scaling back invasion as troops retreat to eastern Ukraine after weeks of stalemate

Fear of the Russian military deploying chemical biological weapons has been heightened.

Ukrainian outlet InformNapalm has warned that: “Our conclusions may sound premature or too apocalyptic, but after the missile attacks and bombing of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, which the Russian army resorted to, we believe that it is necessary to make these data public and try to thwart any such intentions of Russia.”

And NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels on Thursday: “We’ve tried to be very clear about the gravity of the use of any such chemical weapons.

“These are agents that should never be employed and certainly not on the battlefield, as we are concerned Russia might.”



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