WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Latest on the international conference on the Middle East (all times local):
Israel’s prime minister says he plans on working with Arab countries at a U.S.-backed Mideast conference in Warsaw to focus on the “common interest of war with Iran.”
Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to reporters Wednesday shortly after meeting Oman’s foreign minister, Yusuf bin Alawi, on the sidelines of the conference.
Netanyahu said the meeting was significant because it was a rare, open gathering with Arab representatives “that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.”
The belligerent comments went further than Netanyahu’s usual warnings about Iran. Officials in his office didn’t return messages seeking clarification.
The U.S. has billed the conference as a gathering about regional peace and security. But Netanyahu and Gulf countries are eager to focus on Iran.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has accused Russia of seeking to divide the Western alliance with its energy reserves, nuclear weapons and “its efforts to meddle in elections across Europe and around the world.”
Pence made his remarks Wednesday in Warsaw, where he began a four-day visit to Europe. Earlier in the day he met with hundreds of Polish troops and U.S. soldiers serving in the country.
The visit comes as Poland is seeking a permanent U.S. base on its soil due to fears of a resurgent Russia.
In remarks to reporters after a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Pence acknowledged Polish fear, saying that “no threat looms larger in Poland than the specter of aggression from your neighbor to the east.”
He said: “Moscow seeks to divide our alliance, with its oil and gas reserves, with its new arsenal of nuclear weapons, and with its efforts to meddle in elections across Europe and around the world.”
Iran says a U.S.-sponsored conference taking place in Warsaw is an attempt by the United States “to demonize” the country’s role in the Middle East and to undermine the U.N. Security Council..
The Iranian government issued what it called a “non-paper” on Wednesday that said the Trump administration’s “malicious intentions” for the ministerial meeting were clear even though a high-ranking Polish representative assured Tehran the gathering is not intended “to be targeting Iran.”
Iran’s U.N. Mission shared the paper with The Associated Press.
It says the meeting’s “intended goals and biased agenda” are likely to escalate “the distrust, chaos, crisis and conflict in the region, which is already deeply suffering from multiple tragic catastrophes.”
The conference is starting amid uncertainty over its aims and questions about what it will deliver.
The Trump administration initially billed it as an Iran-focused meeting. Organizers have broadened the scope to include issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the fight against the Islamic State group.
Israel’s prime minister has held a rare public meeting with the foreign minister of the Gulf Arab state of Oman at a U.S.-sponsored Mideast conference in Poland.
In a video released by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, the Omani foreign minister, Yusuf bin Alawi, said people in the Middle East have “suffered a lot” because they stick to the past. He said Wednesday’s meeting reflects a “new era” for the region.
Netanyahu paid a surprise visit to Oman in November, calling it a “courageous decision” by the country’s sultan to invite him.
Netanyahu frequently boasts of warming behind-the-scenes contacts with Arab leaders, who very rarely appear in public with the Israeli prime minister.
Netanyahu said “many” are following Oman’s lead, “and, may I say, including at this conference.”
U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyer and former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani has called on a conference on the Middle East to take a “firm stance” on Iran to press its government to adopt a democratic course.
Giuliani spoke Wednesday in Warsaw to a few hundred participants at a protest by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, also known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, an Iranian exile group. He spoke just hours before an international conference on the Middle East opens in Warsaw.
He said he hoped the conference, just like the U.S. government, will be firm on Iran “so that we don’t do business with them, so that we isolate them, so that we do the best that we can to get them to change their policies, and if they don’t change their policies, to change the regime.”
He stressed to reporters he was speaking in a personal capacity.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has arrived in Poland, starting a four-day visit to Europe in which he will take part in international conferences and visit the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz.
He landed at Warsaw airport in the early afternoon on Wednesday and was to meet in a hanger there with American and Polish troops.
In Warsaw, he will visit historic sites associated with World War II and take part in a conference Thursday on the Middle East. He will visit Auschwitz Friday and will then head to the Munich Security Conference.
His stop in Poland comes as Poland lobbies Washington for a permanent U.S. base on its soil.
The United States and Poland are kicking off an international conference on the Middle East amid uncertainty over its aims and questions about what it will deliver.
Initially it was billed by President Donald Trump’s administration as an Iran-focused meeting. The organizers have significantly broadened its scope to include the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the fight against the Islamic State group, Syria and Yemen. The shift was designed in part to boost participation after some invitees balked at an Iran-centric event when many in Europe are trying to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal after last year’s U.S. withdrawal.
Yet the agenda for the discussions contains no hint of any concrete action that might result. Many of the roughly 60 countries participating will be represented at levels lower than foreign minister.
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