British and Russian ambassadors summoned after re-creating famous Tehran Conference picture
Iran summoned the Russian and British ambassadors on Thursday after they re-created a famous picture of Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt at the Tehran Conference in 1943.
Britain’s ambassador, Simon Shercliff, and Russian envoy, Levan Dzhagaryan, were pictured sitting where Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill sat for a photo atop the steps of the then-Soviet embassy, during the Tehran Conference.
The place occupied by US President Franklin Roosevelt – the third member of the so-called ‘Big Three’ leading powers fighting Hitler’s Germany in 1943 – was empty.
Iran summoned the Russian and British ambassadors on Thursday after they re-created a famous picture of Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt at the Tehran Conference in 1943
Britain’s ambassador, Simon Shercliff, and Russian envoy, Levan Dzhagaryan, were pictured sitting where Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill sat for a photo atop the steps of the then-Soviet embassy, during the Tehran Conference
State media reported that Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Dzhagaryan and Shercliff over the photo, even after the Russian embassy tweeted an explanation saying that it had posted the image only as a commemoration of the Allies’ fight against the Nazis.
Iran’s foreign minister-designate Hossein Amirabdollahian said the picture ‘showed disregard for diplomatic etiquette and the national pride of the Iranian people’.
Iran’s foreign minister-designate Hossein Amirabdollahian said the picture ‘showed disregard for… the national pride of the Iranian people’
‘During the meeting, the Russian ambassador stated that his intention to publish this photo was merely a reminder of Russia’s alliance with Britain against the Nazi army during World War Two,’ Iran’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
‘There was no anti-Iranian motive behind the photo,’ the statement added, according to state TV.
While outgoing foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, called the photo ‘inappropriate,’ given that Russia and Britain had invaded Iran in 1941.
August marks the 80th anniversary of the campaign, when Soviet and British armoured divisions swept in largely unopposed to secure oil fields and Russian supply lines through Iran, officially neutral but considered pro-Germany at the time.
Zarif drew a connection between the photo and the stalled negotiations with world powers over Iran’s nuclear program, aimed at capping Iran’s uranium enrichment activities in return for a lifting of sanctions that have worsened the nation’s already ailing economy.
‘The Iranian people have shown-including during the JCPOA talks-that their destiny can NEVER be subject to decisions in foreign embassies or by foreign powers,’ Zarif wrote on Twitter.
Outgoing foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, called the photo ‘inappropriate,’ given that Russia and Britain had invaded Iran in 1941
Parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf called the photo ‘immoral’ and urged for a ‘strong’ diplomatic reaction if the two ambassadors do not apologise officially. Backlash also reverberated on social media.
While emphasising friendly relations between Iran and Russia, an Iranian foreign ministry official made clear that publication of the photograph ‘was not acceptable’, the statement said.
The Russian embassy said it had no wish to cause offence.
Did Britain and the Soviet Union occupy Iran in World War II?
Britain and the then-Soviet Union invaded Iran, a neutral nation in World War II, in August 1941.
The invasion, known as Operation Countenance, was largely unopposed and the Iranian government surrendered on August 31.
The invasion was intended to secure Soviet supply lines and Iranian oil fields, but primarily to limit German influence over the country.
Reza Shah abdicated after the invasion and was forced into exile. He was replaced by his son.
The new Shah signed a treaty with the Britain and the Soviet Union in January 1942.
The treaty said Iran was not an ‘occupied’ power but a member of the Allies – though many Iranians disagree with this categorisation.
Iran joined the war against Germany in September 1943.
‘Taking into account the ambiguous reaction to our photo, we would like to note that it does not have any anti-Iranian context. We were not going to offend the feelings of the friendly Iranian people,’ it tweeted.
‘The only meaning that this photo has to pay tribute to the joint efforts of the allied states against Nazism during the Second World War. Iran is our friend and neighbour, and we will continue to strengthen relations based on mutual respect’ the Russian embassy added.
Shercliff retweeted the comments.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency said the British envoy ‘regretted the misunderstanding’ over the picture and said that ‘there was no bad intention behind it’.
Iranian authorities say they see Moscow as a ‘strategic partner’ in talks between Tehran and six powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal that Washington abandoned three years ago.
Tensions between Iran and Britain have risen over an attack last month on a tanker in which a Briton died. Britain blamed Tehran, which denied involvement.
Russia, alongside Britain, France, China, Germany and the US, have not met for months at the Vienna negotiation site.
Tehran and Moscow have improved their relations in recent decades after Russia built Iran’s sole nuclear power plant in southern Iranian port of Bushehr.
They have also increased military cooperation, and Russia delivered hundreds of thousand vaccines to Iran to fight Covid-19.
Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin, pictured here in Yalta in February 1945 had met for the first time in Tehran in November 1943 to discuss plans for the opening of the second European front
A meeting between the Big Three at the so-called Tehran Conference in Iran in 1943
What happened at the Tehran Conference in 1943?
The Tehran Conference between the Big Three, Franklin D Roosavelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin was the first time the Soviet leader met the western leaders.
It has been marked as the marking the origins of the Cold War, with the British and Americans agreeing to the Soviet Union reclaiming some Polish territory and the opening of negotiations about the fate of a the post-war Germany and Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe.
Poland, under the plan was to be compensated by gaining some German territory, but the Soviets later insisted Poland must remain in their sphere of influence as a buffer zone.
Winston Churchil, Joseph Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt held talks in Tehran in 1943
Roosevelt wanted an assurance from Stalin that Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia would only rejoin the Soviet Union in the event their people supported it during a free and fair referendum. Stalin claimed any vote would take place under the terms of the Soviet constitution and there would be no international control of the ballot.
Churchill and Roosevelt confirmed to Stalin plans surrounding Operation Overlord and secured the agreement of the Soviet leader for his troops to launch a counter-offensive against the Germans on the eastern front to divert troops and equipment from the defence of France.
The leaders also discussed the possibility of Russia declaring war on Japan following the eventual defeat of Germany, however, Stalin extracted territorial concessions in the Pacific – including the Kuril Islands – an area that remains disputed today.
Stalin refused to travel far from the Soviet Union, so instead, Roosevelt boarded the USS Iowa on a secret mission to sail across the Atlantic.
Roosevelt met Churchill in Cairo before the Tehran meeting, where they had a conference with Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek about the war against Japan.
In Tehran, Roosevelt and Stalin discussed the need for a ‘United Nations’ following the failure in the 1920s and 30s of the League of Nations.
All three leaders issued a statement at the end of the conference supporting and independent and sovereign Iran.