Controversial 'Tehran Conference' photo of UK, Russia ambassadors provokes uproar in Iran
A photo depicting the UK and Russia's envoys to Iran, at the location of a historic conference involving Allied powers during the Second World War, has provoked uproar among senior Iranian political figures.
The Russian Embassy tweeted a photo of its ambassador in Tehran, Levan Dzhagaryan, meeting with the head of the UK's diplomatic mission, Simon Shercliff, on the "historical stair, where the 1943 Tehran conference was held".
Codenamed Eureka, the Tehran Conference was a strategy meeting that brought the USSR's Joseph Stalin, US' Franklin D. Roosevelt, and UK's Winston Churchill together and ended with an agreement to open a second front against Nazi Germany.
It forced Iran, otherwise a neutral country, to declare war on Germany. The UK and Soviet Union had invaded Iran two years prior - a conflict that saw the Iranians formally surrender within a week despite having superior forces.
Iran's outgoing Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif slammed the picture and its timing, which happens amid Iran's ongoing nuclear talks with world powers.
"I saw an extremely inappropriate picture today. Need I remind all that Aug. 2021 in neither Aug. 1941 nor Dec. 1943," Zarif tweeted.
He also interpreted the photo as carrying a covert message about foreign influence in Iran, a contentious issue amid talks to revive Tehran's nuclear deal.
"The Iranian people have shown - including during the JPCOA talks - that their destiny can NEVER be subject to decisions in foreign embassies or by foreign powers."
🇷🇺Ambassador Levan Dzhagaryan's meeting with the new head of the 🇬🇧British diplomatic mission in Iran Simon Shercliff on the historical stair, where the 1943 Tehran conference was held pic.twitter.com/1JyC9VWVpi— Russian Embassy, IRI (@RusEmbIran) August 11, 2021
Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf, Iran's parliamentary speaker, condemned the picture as "diplomatically disrespectful and improper behaviour".
The incident, an unusual spat between close allies Tehran and Moscow, prompted the Russian embassy to clarify its intentions behind the post.
"Taking into account the ambiguous reaction to our photo, we would like to note that it does not have any anti-Iranian context. We were not going to offend the feelings of the friendly Iranian people," it read.
"The only meaning that this photo must pay tribute to [is] the joint efforts of the Allied states against Nazism during the Second World War. Iran is our friend and neighbour, and we will continue to strengthen relations based on mutual respect."
Early on Thursday, Iranian media reported that its foreign ministry had "invited" Russian envoy to clarify the matter - without using the term "summon".