Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is meeting Iran’s president on Sunday after holding “frank” discussions in Tehran over the plight of imprisoned Briton Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
The invitation to see president Hassan Rouhani was being seen as a positive development given the often testy state of relations between the two countries.
The move came as it remained unclear whether Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe would be taken back to court on Sunday following threats to increase her sentence by five years after Mr Johnson incorrectly told a parliamentary committee that she had been in Iran to train journalists.
Mother-of-one Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in 2016 during a holiday visit to show her baby daughter Gabriella to her parents.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is currently serving a five-year sentence over allegations, which she denies, of plotting to overthrow the Tehran government.
Mr Johnson has been seeking her release and said he held “frank” discussions on the case with his opposite number Mohammad Javad Zarif when he arrived in Tehran for the start of the two-day visit.
Boris Johnson in discussions with the Iranians (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)
The imprisoned woman’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, expressed concern at the prospect of his wife going to court again.
He told the Press Association: “I am obviously watching closely with hope, fingers crossed.”
Mr Ratcliffe said he hoped the Foreign Secretary’s visit would do some good.
“Hopefully, he will be persuasive and charming, and build a good relationship. It is definitely good that he is there, but let’s wait and see what happens.”
Tehran does not recognise Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s dual UK-Iranian nationality, and refuses access to her for representatives of the British authorities, making a prison visit for the Foreign Secretary unlikely during the trip.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case is one of a small number of cases of dual nationals whose release Britain is seeking on humanitarian grounds on which Mr Johnson will push for progress.
Mr Johnson’s trip to Tehran is only the third by a UK foreign secretary since 2003 and comes at a time of tension in the Middle East over Donald Trump’s announcement that he is recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.