Come on over to my place: Boris Johnson shares a joke with President Rouhani and invites him to London – but admits there is ‘a lot of progress still to make’ over Britons jailed in Iran
- PM met with President Hassan Rouhani at UN General Assembly in New York
- He invited him to London where the pair could ‘discuss things more’
- He said he ‘retains serious concerns’ about dual UK-Iranian nationals behind bars
Boris Johnson invited the Iranian president to London during his whirlwind trip to New York, but still called for ‘progress’ on the cases of Britons jailed in Tehran.
The Prime Minister’s meeting with Hassan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly yesterday came amid heightening tensions with the Islamic republic.
But the pair were pictured laughing as Mr Johnson invited Mr Rouhani to London where they could ‘discuss things more’.
Despite the niceties, Mr Johnson blamed Tehran for the recent attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities and said he still has ‘serious concerns’ about several dual nationals locked up in Iran.
The PM branded the Iranian nuclear pact a ‘bad deal’ and said US president Donald Trump is the ‘one guy’ who can negotiate a new one.
Mr Johnson was keen to raise the case of British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is more than half way through a five-year jail term for spying.
Boris Johnson is pictured smiling and pointing at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as he bursts out laughing at the UK Prime Minister during their meeting in New York
The pair (French President Emmanuel Macron centre) were pictured laughing as Mr Johnson (left) invited Mr Rouhani (right) to London where they could ‘discuss things more’
He previously bungled negotiations on Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s potential release while serving as Foreign Secretary.
Adding that his 2017 visit to Tehran in his previous job was ‘very productive’, he added: ‘I think we still have a lot of progress to make.’
Despite an apparent jovial exchange between the two leaders, Mr Johnson told President Rouhani: ‘There are other issues also I wish to raise with you and we retain serious concerns about the detention of dual nationals in Tehran and we are looking forward to make progress on that.’
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard had called on the PM to tell Mr Rouhani that ‘enough is enough’ and that he must free his wife immediately.
The PM’s meeting came immediately after Mr Rouhani met with French President Emmanuel Macron, and the three spoke briefly in the same room in the Millennium Hilton hotel opposite the UN.
Mr Macron said it would be a ‘lost opportunity’ if Trump did not meet Mr Rouhani before he leaves the states.
The Prime Minister’s meeting with Hassan Rouhani (pictured) at the UN General Assembly yesterday came amid heightening tensions with the Islamic republic
Mr Johnson and Mr Rouhani’s jovial exchange was very different to the Iranian leader’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, where the two appeared stone-faced
President Macron and Chancellor Macron had separate meetings with the Iranian leader. They are pictured in a serious exchange at the UN General Assembly in New York
Addressing the Iranian leader, Mr Johnson said: ‘I think I agree with Emmanuel. You need to be on the side of the swimming pool and jump at the same time.’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel sat down separately with the Mr Rouhani, telling reporters it was ‘unrealistic’ to believe that US sanctions would be removed ahead of new talks with the Gulf state.
She said: ‘I would naturally be happy if there were talks between the United States and Iran.’
The pair engaged in a serious conversation, with both sparing pleasantries.
Boris appeared far more stone-faced when he sat with EU leaders yesterday (Angela Merkel pictured second right and Emmanuel Macron far left)
Mr Johnson also appeared far more stone-faced when he sat with EU leaders yesterday, as Brexit tensions reached breaking point on home soil with the Supreme Court ruling he acted unlawfully by proroguing Parliament.
His meeting with the Iranian leader came two days after he formally accused Tehran of being responsible for the Aramco attacks, which forced up oil prices.
The attribution of responsibility – which Tehran disputes – earned him a swift rebuke from Iran.
The PM went on to criticise the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) as having ‘many defects’, in a break from previous UK policy.
But he went on to reaffirm British commitment to the JCPoA in a joint statement with France and Germany, as they blamed Iran for the Saudi attacks in a display of unity.