Davos Diary: Iran Sends a Smaller Delegation to Davos

After trying to throw the doors wide for investors last year, Iranian representatives lie low this year.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani answers a question during press conference in New York on September 26, 2014. Rouhani said Friday that talks with international powers on Tehran's nuclear program must move forward more quickly, saying limited progress had been made in recent days. "The remaining time for reaching an agreement is extremely short. Progress that has been witnessed in the last few days has been extremely slow," he told reporters in New York, where he attended the UN General Assembly. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Last year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani packed the house in Davos when he spoke at the annual World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Attendees all but salivated over the potential opening of Iran’s market amid optimism that negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program would lead to sanctions being lifted. And Rouhani invited the business and political leaders in the audience to come to Tehran and “witness the extensive fields for investment.”

This year, both the charm offensive and warm welcome have cooled.

With no nuclear deal in sight, and talks dragging on between Iran and its six negotiating partners, Tehran’s delegation is not a sought-after ticket at Davos. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is speaking on a panel Friday afternoon about the “Geopolitical Outlook,” but otherwise Iran is nowhere on the official conference agenda.

Mahmood Sariolghalam, a professor of international relations at Iran’s National University, said there was more optimism at Davos last year, “because people were expecting nuclear negotiations to be conclusive much earlier than this.”

But Sariolghalam said European and American companies remain interested in investing in Iran, despite the lack of attention at Davos.

“They look at Iran as a very good opportunity, but they are waiting for sanctions to be lifted,” he said from the Davos sidelines. “They’re saying, ‘We’re willing to go there tomorrow morning.’”


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