Pix: Zarif and Ashton The Ups and Downs

March 21, 2014

             Iran’s tenuous relationship with the West has been illustrated by the ups and downs in the relationship between Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. The two have been the lead negotiators in the new diplomacy to find a peaceful resolution to Iran’s controversial nuclear program. But ending longstanding tension has proved difficult as illustrated in the following pictures and tweets.

            Zarif and Ashton participated in nuclear negotiations on March 18-19 and February 19-20 in Vienna (see last picture). Ashton also made a pivotal visit to Tehran on March 8 – the first by a senior E.U. official since 2008 – to explore stronger relations between Europe and Iran on non-nuclear issues (see third picture).

            But the visit wasn’t without controversy. Within two days hardliners had posted pictures of Ashton accusing her of hypocrisy for meeting with human rights activists in Iran, while Europe ignored Saddam Hussein’s gross human rights violations against Iranians and Iraqis, including the use of chemical weapons in the late 1980s (see second picture).
 
            Zarif reportedly canceled dinner with Ashton on the eve of the March nuclear talks, which has been past custom before other rounds of diplomacy, because of the domestic backlash to her visit. Nevertheless, the talks proved both “useful and substantive” and Ashton tweeted Nowruz greetings (see first picture).
 
Ashton Sends Nowruz Greetings to Zarif and Iranians
 
Hardliners Put Up Billboards Criticizing Ashton
 
Ashton Visits Tehran on March 8
 
Ashton and Zarif Lead Negotiations in Vienna on March 18-19
 
 
Photo credits: Robin Wright, European External Action Service via Flickr