Charlie Hebdo's latest cover drew criticism from Iran's foreign ministry on Wednesday. The Islamic republic criticized the cover showing a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad. Reuters/Caren Firouz

Wednesday’s Charlie Hebdo cover depicting the Prophet Muhammad is “insulting” and “provocative,” according to Iran’s Foreign Ministry. A spokeswoman for the ministry said it could “fan the flame of a vicious circle of extremism,” according to Agence France-Presse.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham reiterated the Islamic republic’s strong position against the attack but said the caricature was an “abuse of freedom of speech, which is common in the West these days.” The cover shows Islam’s prophet weeping and holding a sign reading “Je suis Charlie,” a rallying call that cropped up on social media following last week’s attack. A banner above the Prophet Muhammad reads “Tout Est Pardonné,” meaning “All is forgiven” in French. The newspaper printed 3 million copies of the edition, far more than the 60,000 it usually prints. Many newsstands sold out early Wednesday.

Two radical Islamists linked to al Qaeda in Yemen stormed the French satirical newspaper’s Paris office last Wednesday armed with AK-47 assault rifles and body armor. They killed 12 people there. Five others were killed by an associate before all three were gunned down on Friday by police after the two gunmen took a hostage outside Paris and their associate took hostages at a kosher supermarket in the city.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif spoke out against the cover ahead of a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry but did so in a far more conciliatory tone. “I think we would have a much safer, much more prudent world if we were to engage in serious dialogue, serious debate about our differences, and then we will find out that what binds us together is far greater than what divides us,” he said according to Reuters.

“Disrespecting each other’s values,” does not allow for serious dialogue, he said. He made the comments ahead of talks with Kerry over Iran's nuclear program, which has divided Iran and the West over the past 15 years. Previous talks fell apart without progress. Western nations placed sanctions on Iran over the program, effectively isolating the Islamic republic.

Some Islamic scholars who spoke about Charlie Hebdo’s cover in recent days disagreed with the move by the newspaper, which was targeted for its history of openly criticizing Islam and publishing depictions of Prophet Muhammad. Many said it was inflammatory and disrespectful. Anjem Coudary, a well-known Islamist cleric based in London, called the cover an “act of war” that would be met with capital punishment under Islamic Shariah law, according to the Independent.

A number of Irish Islamic education centers had less inflammatory criticisms for the cover but asked Muslims in Ireland to respond with patience in the manner that the Prophet Muhammad himself taught in the Koran.