February 8, 2021
Iran’s parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf arrived in Moscow with a “historic” message to President Vladimir Putin, who refused to receive the official sparking controversy in Tehran.
The state-run ISNA agency reported that Qalibaf was carrying a message from Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, to the Russian leader.
During his first foreign visit after assuming the position of speaker last May, Qalibaf will meet his counterparts in the Russian State Duma and Senate and hold talks with political, security, economic and trade officials.
Before heading to Moscow, he told reporters at Mehrabad airport, in west Tehran, that his visit ia taking place at the invitation of the chairman of the Russian State Duma.
Khamenei “has always underlined our strategic relations with Russia…. One of the outstanding aspects of this visit is that I’m carrying an important message about strategic issues,” he indicated, without elaborating.
Associates of Qalibaf tweeted information about the visit, drawing criticism from the speaker’s opponents, who considered the timing of the publication of the information a “propaganda” attempt ahead of the upcoming presidential elections.
Mahdi Mahmoudi, Qalibaf’s strategic advisor, described the speaker as the Supreme Leader’s “special envoy,” asserting that raising marginal issues will not distract from the historic mission.
He also indicated that postponing the visit was not difficult, but the message must be conveyed at this special time.
Meanwhile, lawmaker, Mojtaba Tavangar, tweeted that Qalibaf rejected the coronavirus health protocols imposed during the meeting with Putin, prompting its cancellation.
Iranian media explained that Russian authorities wanted the speaker to first self-isolate for 15 days before meeting Putin. Qalibaf had tested positive for coronavirus in late October.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Tavangar in its report on the visit, confirming information that Putin refused to receive the speaker.
ISNA news agency reported that the president instead chose a special representative to receive Khamenei’s message from Qalibaf.
The reformist Shargh newspaper mocked the speaker in its headline, saying “Qalibaf becomes a diplomat.”
It also said Qalibaf intended to discuss with Putin’s special representative the nuclear deal as well as oil exports.
Rajanews website accused the speaker’s team of trying to obtain a “special political standing” during the visit, after leaking information about the message.