Iran and France cancel diplomatic lunch to welcome Hassan Rouhani after French refuse to take wine off the menu

Iranian officials asked that a lunch between the two countries' presidents be Halal and alcohol-free

Caroline Mortimer
Thursday 28 January 2016 00:28 GMT
Hollande and Rouhani were supposed to meet for lunch at an upmarket restaurant in Paris
Hollande and Rouhani were supposed to meet for lunch at an upmarket restaurant in Paris

A lunch between the French and Iranian presidents in Paris has been scrapped after the hosts refused to take wine off the menu.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had been due to eat lunch with French President Francois Hollande in an upmarket restaurant as part of Mr Rohani’s tour of Europe - but negotiations broke down after the Iranians requested a halal, alcohol-free meal.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (3rd-L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (2nd-L) attend a meeting with French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron (2nd-R), Movement of the Enterprises of France (MEDEF) president Pierre Gattaz (3rd-R) and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (4th-R) in Paris on 27 January 2016.

French officials insisted on serving traditional local food and wine and said making a meal “Iran friendly” went against their Republican values.

The Elysee Palace suggested the heads of state share breakfast instead but this was rejected as “too cheap”.

A source told French radio station RTL: “The leaders have missed out on a great opportunity to meet in the relaxed environment of a meal.”

Mr Rouhani is currently visiting several European countries to sign business deals worth billions of pounds as Iran comes back in from the diplomatic cold after years of economic sanctions.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (left) greets Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during an official welcoming ceremony at the Invalides in Paris

His visit to Italy went much more smoothly with officials keeping alcohol off the menu at state dinners and even covering up its ancient nude statues in Rome as they signed £12bn worth of business deals.

Iranian officials did not request the statues be covered up but were said to appreciate the gesture.

But some Italians thought it was a sign of “cultural suicide”:

Meanwhile, French protesters have demanded Mr Hollande challenge Mr Rouhani over human rights abuses in Iran - where people are jailed, executed and flogged or speaking against the regime or being gay and women are treated as second class citizens.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in