Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has had to defend a 15-minute walk he took with US Secretary of State John Kerry during the nuclear negotiations in Geneva on January 14.
Pictures showing the two walking along the Rhone River became popular on Iranian social media, reports Al-Monitor's Iran Pulse, which says many Iranians “were surprised to see the foreign secretaries of these two nations taking a public walk and speaking so casually.”
Back in Tehran last week, Zarif accused his critics of using the walk as a partisan issue. He explained that the negotiations in Geneva were intense, and that he and Kerry decided to step out for fresh air as the hotel did not have a garden. This was “natural,” he argued, given the long hours of the meetings, with no breaks except for prayers.
The critics were not placated, according to Al-Monitor. The head of the Basij militia, Mohammad Reza Naghdi, said, “showing intimacy with the enemy of humanity is completely wrong.” He added that by walking with the US secretary of state, Zarif was “trampling the blood of martyrs.”
Naghdi also criticized Zarif for showing up to Paris the same day that the French prime minister held up the Charlie Hebdo magazine cover that depicted the founder of Islam, Mohammed. “He’s undermining his ability to defend the rights of Iran with these types of actions,” charged Naghdi.
Members of Iran's parliament are threatening to summon Zarif to answer their questions in person about the walk with Kerry and his trip to France.
Javad Karimi-Ghodousi said that Zarif did not go on the walk out “out of carelessness” but, rather, intentionally, “for domestic public opinion.”
Al-Monitor cites Karimi-Ghodousi as adding that going to Paris during the peak of the Charlie Hebdo events sent the message that Iran wants to cooperate with a “domineering system and the West.”
Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, spokesman for the Iranian administration, dismissed the criticism, saying, “it is weak-minded to think of the walk with Zarif and Kerry as weak diplomacy.”