Iran and France are at odds over the menu that should be served during a meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and French President François Hollande. At the center of the dispute is wine – the French want to serve it and the Iranians don’t want it.
French officials cancelled plans for a formal dinner meeting between the two leaders when the Iranians insisted on a booze free meal with halal meat. To the food and wine loving French, this amounted to culinary sacrilege.
The French have countered with an offer for an alcohol-free breakfast but the Iranians rejected this because it appeared “too cheap.”
Things are in limbo about dinner or lunch, but in the meantime a food free face to face chat has been scheduled for next Tuesday. A spokesperson the Elysée Palace declined further comment on the halal and wine dispute.
What is becoming called the “food fracas” by international media comes when Rouhani is making his first official presidential trip to Europe. It is designed to mark Iran’s economic coming out after lifting international sanctions in return for international inspections of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.
The Iranian president will be meeting with Pope Francis and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome before heading to France on Saturday. There he will be addressing the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and meeting with French officials and business leaders.
Some international observers see the Food Fracas as symbolic of the diplomatic situation between the two countries and a carry over of the international negotiations to reach the sanction lifting deal which France took one of hardest lines against.
French industry and business leaders will no doubt be telling the Government to ease up on the wine because they want to be in the running for business opportunities that may open up. Other European companies and governments are literally tripping over each other to court the Iranians, with Italy and Germany already having dispatched trade missions and senior ministers to Tehran.