Ambassador says British officials visited Tehran last week for historic arms sales loan talks of the 1970s
The Iranian ambassador in London said British government officials were in Tehran last week to discuss legal ways to pay off Britain’s historic debt to Iran.
Mohsin Baharwand said that he was in live discussion with the Ministry of External Affairs and said that the problems are not insurmountable.
The UK Foreign Office declined to discuss the details of payments to Iran, or what prevented the settlement of a £400 million loan from arms sales to Iran between the 1970s.
The families of dual British nationals detained in Iran have repeatedly said they believe their family members are being held hostage until the debt is repaid. Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has also said he does not believe twice as many UK nationals will be released until the debt is paid off.
Speaking to reporters in London on Friday, Baharwand said Iran and Britain were close to a loan deal this summer: “We wanted to use this deal to ask our people that we see a good sign from Britain.” Which is giving us an opportunity to accelerate. Our efforts to help dual citizens and things like that. Then we made a deal. We signed it, but two days after signing this agreement, the UK government said they could not implement it because of US sanctions,” he said.
“We’re trying. We shouldn’t be so pessimistic. We’re working with our colleagues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get this deal done. We’re having discussions. Last week there was a UK delegation to Iran and I was talking to the Foreign Office personally and I hope we can come to an agreement.”
a debt challenge
Citing reports that the money could be given in the form of humanitarian aid, he said: “It is not aid. We have money and we want our money. It’s very simple. We want to get our money. We do not insist on interest. Otherwise it will be billions. We are discussing with our British partners the most likely channel to transfer this money to our accounts. ,
Asked if the US could give a letter of assurance to the UK to ensure the payment would not be accepted, he said: “The US is not doing this. They should help the British government to do that. It is impossible.” No. The hurdles are not insurmountable but we should discuss, negotiate and find a way out. Now we are discussing through which channel this money will be transferred. Now the process of talks is on.”
He also emphasized that the issue of the release of prisoners is a matter of Iranian justice and cannot be confused with the larger issue of the Iranian nuclear talks in Vienna.
Responding to the Iranian ambassador’s remarks, a spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “We continue to explore options to resolve this 40-year-old matter and will not comment further as discussions continue.”
Foreign Office sources said the UK recognizes it has a legal debt to Iran, but said there is no point in linking broader bilateral issues to those who misplaced it in Iran.
Britain’s priority was the immediate release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anusheh Ashuri and Morad Tahbaz.
dialogue for solution
Officials said it was a gift from Iran to do the right thing and allow British citizens to be reunited with their families.
In a question-and-answer session at the Chatham House think tank this week, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss acknowledged that Britain is owed debt. She came from the families of two captives with dual Iranian-British nationality, Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ashuri.
Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, said: “It’s a positive sign. It looks like Iran is trying to push it, but the UK is very careful what the issues are with the payments, so we don’t know if we can do not know what.
“Our lawyers believe that US sanctions cannot stop payments. There may be political issues with the United States. All EU sanctions banning payments have now become UK sanctions, so It is possible for the UK to certify that paying the loan would not violate UK sanctions.
“But Nazanin is in danger, and now it is the sixth Christmas that our family will be separated – that is a long time. I fear I am more pessimistic than I was last Christmas.”
Ashuri’s wife Sherry Izadi, who is detained in Avin Prison, Tehran, said: “While we expected to be informed of this development by the FCDO, we sincerely hope that the report is true and that we will take the direction of the return of our beloved.” In these months of gloom and despair, it was the first real ray of sunshine.”