Good thing the nuclear deal is already signed; matchmaking is tough. After years of negotiating the nuclear deal to bring Iran back into the fold, it appears there are still a few cultural kinks to be worked out—to break bread with a glass of wine in hand or not? That’s the most urgent, if not most important, question of mutual understanding and decorum facing the French and Iranians days before Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is scheduled to visit the country. It’s an important diplomatic visit, the first European trip in a decade for a president of Iran. To commemorate the evening, a state dinner at the Elysée Palace was in the offing, but the wine pairing proved problematic. From AFP:
Rohani’s upcoming trip has already caused an uproar in France, where RTL radio reported on Monday that the Iranian president has refused to dine at the Elysée presidential palace if wine is served during the meal. Although Iran had requested a halal menu, which customarily means no alcohol, France was unwilling to break with the traditions surrounding official state lunches or dinners, according to RTL. The controversy has now threatened to overshadow Rohani’s visit, during which he is expected to discuss a number of issues with Hollande, including the nuclear deal as well as Syria’s conflict.
“The French, RTL said, counter offered with a presumably alcohol-free breakfast—which the Iranians promptly rejected because it appeared too ‘cheap,’ ” according to the Washington Post. In fairness, France appears to draw a hard line when it comes to wine at the state dinner table, and it’s created a bit of diplomatic awkwardness in the past, with former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Malik refusing a dinner invitation because alcohol was irrevocably on the menu.