The thaw in British-Iranian relations: London pays historic debts and Tehran releases a British woman after six years

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in a photo taken by her husband, who has spent time researching the British Foreign Office.ANP/EPA photo

The news of Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release is causing great feelings in England. She had separated from her husband Richard and their daughter Gabriella over the past six years. In his tireless struggle to free his wife, Richard Ratcliffe became a celebrity in the country.

The North London family’s world was shattered when Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport on March 17, 2016. She had visited her relatives during the Iranian New Year with her 22-month-old daughter. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for a charitable organization, was accused by the authorities of plots to overthrow the regime. In the years that followed, her husband went on a hunger strike to free his wife.

The historical debt of half a billion plays a role in the case

The British Foreign Office has constantly tried to get Iran to release the innocent mother. Her position did not improve when Boris Johnson, as Secretary of State, mistakenly claimed that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in her home country teaching journalists. Her husband has always said that his wife is being held to force the British government to repay a historic debt of half a billion euros.

The history of this religion goes back more than four decades. The Shah purchased 1,500 Chieftain tanks from the British in the 1970s. After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, when Iran turned into a theocracy, the UK stopped supplying it. The British’s refusal to return the purchase amount they had already paid provoked resentment in Iran. London has never denied the financial demands, but sanctions against Tehran are said to have prevented payment. According to Iranian leaders, the two cases are not related to each other.

The payment of the debt and the reunification of the 43-year-old with her family signals a thaw between Iran and the UK. This geopolitical shift may have something to do with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions against Moscow, which have hurt the oil and gas sector. The Johnson administration is busy looking for alternative suppliers, and Iran is a major oil producer. Coincidentally, the British Prime Minister is now visiting the Gulf, where he discusses energy issues, among other things.

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Megan Vasquez

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