Saturday, May 5, 2007

Rice-Mottaki Exchange

UPDATE: Check out the new blog covering the Mid East: Outsider On The Inside

Here's a little glimpse into the brief encounter between U.S Secretary of State Rice and Iranian FM Mottaki:
The first encounter took place between Rice and Mottaki during a May 3 lunch meeting. When Mottaki entered the room, he greeted those present with the usual Islamic salutation, "Al-salam aleykum" ("Peace be upon you"), to which Rice reportedly responded by saying "Hello." She added, "Your English is better than my Arabic." The chief host, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit, jumped in, telling Mottaki, "We want to warm the atmosphere some." Mottaki smiled and replied in English, "In Russia, they eat ice cream in winter because it's warmer than the weather. You take whatever atmosphere-warming you can get." Rice reportedly replied, "That's true." This brief exchange shows that Rice was cautiously trying to reach out to Mottaki.

Later that evening at a dinner gathering, in an apparent effort to facilitate an informal meeting between Rice and Mottaki, Gheit seated the two across from each other. However, Mottaki -- complaining about the presence of a female Russian violinist in what was described as revealing attire -- left the dinner table shortly before Rice arrived. This was clearly an excuse on the part of the top Iranian diplomat, who was playing hard to get without appearing too provocative.
The article goes on to suggest that this can be seen as progression in the U.S-Iranian relationship, and that although U.S intentions were to have a meeting at the conference, Iran was not prepared to have direct high-level talks just yet. However, these actions leave the door open for future negotiations to take place, progressing at a steady pace to the comfort of both sides.

Read the rest here.

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