Mon, 20 May 2019

The United States is organizing a major Middle East conference in Warsaw, hosted by Poland, which has moved to tightly embrace Washington as a counterweight to Russia.

Iran is the main focus of the February 13 conference in the Polish capital, and Tehran has labeled the gathering a hostile act and warned of unspecified consequences for Warsaw.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz are the official hosts of the two-day conference, where senior officials from 60 nations are expected to attend.

Among high-ranking attendees are U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

U.S. sources told RFE/RL that more than 20 other countries from around the world were due to participate at a ministerial level, including Britain, Bulgaria, Italy, Georgia, Romania, Ukraine, South Korea, Brazil, and a number of Arab nations such as Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

'We think we will make real progress,' Pompeo told reporters in Slovakia, where he visited en route to Poland. '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.'

But the conference is controversial. The European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, is not attending, nor are foreign ministers of other European powers, including Russia.

The conference also comes as Poland is pushing for the United States to open a permanent U.S. base on its territory. The U.S. Defense Department is expected to reveal its assessment of the proposal next month.

Washington and its EU allies are also at odds over the fate of the 2015 nuclear treaty that saw Iran curtailing its nuclear ambitions in exchange for Western countries lifting crippling economic sanctions.

President Donald Trump's administration has moved to undo the deal and reimpose sanctions. EU nations, however, criticized the move and sought to keep aspects of the deal in place.

In a news conference in Warsaw on February 12, Czaputowicz said transatlantic cooperation was necessary to resolve conflicts 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.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and RFE/RL's Radio Farda RFE/RL

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 25 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. LIKE FOLLOW Subscribe via RSS

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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