Iranian newspapers criticized new Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, for violating diplomatic protocol at Saturday’s Baghdad conference in his first foreign appearance after taking office.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was forced to answer press questions about the controversy raised by Abdollahian’s violation of the diplomatic protocol.
“It was a successful visit,” he said, warning against focusing on “marginal issues not in the field of foreign policy.”
Abdollahian sparked widespread controversy when he stood in the front row designated for heads of states and governments during the summit family photo.
Former director-general of the Middle East Department at the Foreign Ministry, Qassem Mohebali, criticized the FM for not respecting protocols.
The former diplomat wrote an editorial for Jahane Sanat newspaper, titled “The Consequences of Not Respecting (Diplomatic) Protocols,” saying the conference was a “missed opportunity.”
Mohebali noted that it was a chance for Iran to stand by the Saudi delegations and improve foreign relations.
He said respecting protocols at diplomatic events is very important, adding that honoring procedures shows familiarity with international affairs and respect for the host country.
He warned that an official’s lack of understanding of the occasion leads to unfamiliar behavior, which can have negative consequences.
In turn, the reformist Etemad newspaper strongly criticized the FM’s lack of respect for diplomatic protocol and said that the mistake made by the events director at the Foreign Ministry was unfortunate and unforgivable.
The newspaper wondered if Abdollahian is aware that the host country arranges where a guest must stand or sit at official occasions and ceremonies.
“If he does not know, what is the role of the events director during the conference?” it asked, adding that if Abdollahian did not want to stand or sit next to officials from certain countries, he should have informed the conference’s managers.
The FM returned to Tehran on Monday, after a brief visit to Damascus, where he met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and leaders of Palestinian factions.
Iranian media interpreted the visit as Iran’s protest against Syria’s absence from the conference.
Moreover, Abdollahian was criticized for his “poorly” written Arabic language speech at the summit.
Former deputy speaker, Ali Motahari, welcomed the Arabic speech, but regretted that an Arabic language teacher did not review it to mark the parsing accurately.