US, Poland Co-Host International Middle East Summit in Warsaw

Foreign ministers and senior officials from 60 nations gather in the Polish capital for a two-day Middle East security conference set to begin Wednesday and discuss issues like missile proliferation, energy security, counterterrorism, and cyber threats

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with the Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz during a joint press conference ahead of the summit (Photo: AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Warsaw Wednesday morning, ahead of a two-day Middle East security conference in the Polish capital set to begin Wednesday afternoon.

Dubbed as ‘Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East,’ the conference is going to be held on February 13-14 and participated by dozens of officials from around the world.

The international conference, co-hosted by Poland and the US, will focus on the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other security-related regional matters, its organizers said.

“We will discuss violent instability in Syria and Yemen, as well as efforts to achieve a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz wrote in a joint op-ed published Wednesday morning on CNN’s website.

“Further sessions will feature discussions on missile proliferation, energy security, emerging cyber-based threats, counterterrorism, and humanitarian aid. Our broad goal is to hear every nation’s unscripted, candid ideas for how to make progress on these issues, and more,” they wrote.

While the gathering will mainly address the prospects for peace and security in the Middle East generally, Iran’s nuclear program, missile development, and proxy wars in Syria and Yemen are expected to be the primary focus.

However, Pompeo and Czaputowicz only mentioned Iran indirectly in their op-ed, carefully avoiding the impression that the summit’s focus is an effort to isolate the Islamic Republic.

The summit is expected to draw senior officials from more than 60 countries, including representatives from across the Arab world.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz announced earlier this week that ten other Middle East countries, in addition to Israel, will send representatives to the conference: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Tunisia.

Czaputowicz said “a dozen or so countries have not replied to our invitation while a few decided not to come.” He did not name the countries who declined the invitation, but among the states noticeably absent in the list he gave were Qatar, Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, and Turkey.

The Palestinian Authority turned down an invitation to the summit, and called on other Arab countries not to attend as well.

“We are not going to attend this conference and reiterate that we have not mandated anyone to talk on behalf of Palestine,” said Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Even though the Palestinian Authority is not sending a representative, the Israeli-Palestinian issue is expected to be discussed among the participants, as Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, and Jason Greenblatt, the president’s special representative for international negotiations, are scheduled to attend. The two are expected to roll out Trump’s long-awaited Mideast peace blueprint sometime after the April 9 Israeli elections, and will reportedly update participants at the meeting on the plan.

At the summit, Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Before boarding the plane to Warsaw, Netanyahu confirmed that Israel attacked Iranian targets in Syria on Monday.

The prime minister said that Israel acts every day – “including yesterday” – against Iran and its efforts to entrench itself in Syria and the region. Foreign reports on Monday said Israeli tank shells struck two Iranian targets in southwestern Syria.

 

[Sources: Israel National news, The Jerusalem Post, Mehr News, BBC News]

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