Iran the topic of the day as the world gathers in Warsaw for US summit
Xeber24.net – The National
Several European allies have skipped the meeting, watered down from a soley Iran focused affair to cover regional issues
Representatives of 60 nations began arriving in the Polish capital of Warsaw early on Wednesday ahead of a hastily organised American summit on the Middle East that will focus on ratcheting up pressure on Iran, despite unease among Europeans.
The foreign ministers of Germany and France are perhaps among the most notable country’s skipping the talks and are the latest sign of the growing transatlantic divide on policy towards Tehran. European countries have vowed to maintain the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran which United States President Donald Trump pulled his country out of last year.
EU policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who was a key player in the Iran nuclear deal, will also not attend the two-day conference due to scheduling issues, an EU official said. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Brussels on Friday to meet with her.
The UK’s Jeremy Hunt hesitated for two weeks over attending, finally agreeing to travel to Poland when the US said that the Yemen conflict would also be included on the schedule.
Mr Pompeo, who will be joined by Vice President Mike Pence in Warsaw, has shrugged off the absences to the conference he announced during a regional tour last month.
“Some countries are having their foreign ministers come. Other countries are not. That’s their choice,” he told a news conference.
We think we will make real progress. We think there’ll be dozens of nations there seriously working towards a better, more stable Middle East, and I’m hoping by the time we leave on Thursday we’ll have achieved that,” he added.
While countries such as France, Germany and Britain have opened a new channel for non-dollar trade with Iran to avert US sanctions and keep the nuclear deal afloat, they have criticized Tehran’s ballistic missile program.
“There will be discussions about Iran’s influence in the Middle East, what we can do to help get Iran on a more helpful footing that it has been, to collectively push back on some of its malign behaviour in the region,” a senior US official said of the Warsaw agenda.
New US sanctions, mainly targeted at cutting off revenue from Iran’s oil sector, have largely succeeded in persuading European companies to abandon business with Iran.
Iran has threatened to pull out of the deal unless the European powers enable it to receive economic benefits. The Europeans have promised to help companies do business with Iran as long as it abides by the deal.
In other policy differences, Washington’s European allies have also voiced concern over Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.
The conference will also hear from White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is Mr Trump’s son in law, over plans by the United States for peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
While Kushner is not likely to divulge too many details of the plan, it will be one of the first occasions he will publicly discuss the administration’s vision.
Palestinian officials have said they will not attend the Warsaw conference because of Washington’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas called on other Arab foreign ministers to boycott the meet. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will, however, attend, alongside several officials from Gulf states.
It was unclear which ministers would be attending since organizers refused to release the list of participants ahead of Wednesday’s meeting. Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Basil has said he will not attend because Israel is participating. He also cited the Lebanese government’s policy of dissociation from regional conflicts meaning they could not participate in a conference likely to increase tensions with Iran – a key backer of several Lebanese factions.
For Poland, hosting the event is a chance for the conservative government to bolster its ties with Washington at a time when it faces mounting isolation within the EU amid a dispute over its adherence to rule of law standards.
“It’s a clear effort to underline their desire to please Washington,” said Piotr Buras, a director of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank. “The goals of the conference are also defined by the US, not by Poland. Poland is just the implementer.”
But Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said transatlantic cooperation was necessary to resolve problems in the Middle East.
“The European Union alone does not, in my opinion, carry sufficient political weight to try to really influence the situation in the Middle East,” he told reporters in Warsaw.
“Only working together with the United States, and broadly speaking the community of democratic countries, can we have a positive influence and achieve peace and the stabilisation of the situation in the Middle East,” he added.
Michal Baranowski, who heads the Warsaw office of the German Marshall Fund think tank, said the outcome of the conference could either showcase divisions or more agreement over Iran.
“The proof is very much in the pudding whether this conference is something that will show great consensus or whether it will show greater division,” he said.