AFP: Diplomats trying to secure the release of 15 British troops captured by Iran earlier this year should have tried to speak to Iran’s national security chief earlier, a report from lawmakers said Sunday.
LONDON, July 21, 2007 (AFP) – Diplomats trying to secure the release of 15 British troops captured by Iran earlier this year should have tried to speak to Iran’s national security chief earlier, a report from lawmakers said Sunday.
It took the Foreign Office a week to get in touch with Doctor Ali Larijani after the 15 sailors and marines were seized near the Shatt al-Arab waterway which divides Iraq and Iran on March 23.
The situation exacerbated the already tricky relations between the two countries before President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced their release unharmed after nearly two weeks.
It was “odd” that an application to speak to Larijani was not made earlier, the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee said in its report.
“We conclude that, although the government was making every effort to resolve the situation quietly through bilateral diplomacy in the first few days of the crisis, its application to speak to Doctor Ali Larijani could and should have been made much earlier than 30 March,” it said.
Experts had suggested that Larijani was “very much in charge” of handling the crisis in Tehran, the report added.
It found no evidence to suggest that a deal had been struck to free the group and added that, although there were some “tactical mistakes” in handling the crisis, it was “difficult to fault” the Foreign Office’s overall approach.
The Foreign Office welcomed the report and said it would consider its recommendations before replying in full.
Last month, a report by the former head of the Royal Marines, Lieutenant General Sir Rob Fulton, found the capture was down to no individual human error, but a series of shortcomings.