U.S. State Department says Warsaw meeting won’t be focused on Iran

Upcoming Poland conference not a stage to ‘demonize’ Iran, U.S. says

January 23, 2019

The U.S. said Tuesday that a controversial conference on Middle East stability next month in Poland, jointly hosted by the State Department, won’t be focused on Iran and will have a broader agenda.

The acting U.S. ambassador to the UN, Jonathan Cohen, told the Security Council the meeting in Poland wasn’t a “venue to demonize or attack Iran” or to reopen arguments about the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.

Rather, he said, it would be a “global brainstorming session” with an agenda on cybersecurity, humanitarian aid in Syria and Yemen and extremism.

Offering reassurances in response to international criticism of the conference, Mr. Cohen said that the meeting also would acknowledge Iran’s missile activity and other destabilizing actions. But he added: “The scope of the discussion will be much broader than any one country or set of issues.”

Diplomats said that the Polish Foreign Ministry has asked European foreign ministers to attend the conference, although some European diplomats speculated that Mr. Pompeo might even cancel the conference last minute due to low attendance or attendance by junior-level officials.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in early January that the conference would focus on Iran as a destabilizing influence in the region, but the U.S. failed to rally participation from allied countries. European allies have balked at the conference, concerned that it would serve as a session to criticize Iran and promote the U.S. decision to exit from the nuclear deal, further aggravating European Union attempts to salvage the deal.

Russia, a growing player in the Middle East, announced Tuesday that it had declined the invitation to the Warsaw meeting, scheduled for Feb. 13 and 14. Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, has indicated she won’t attend, officials have said.

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia called the conference “counterproductive” and asked the U.S. why Iran, a regional power, wasn’t invited if the conference was aimed at tackling regional stability.

“Attempts to create some kind of military alliances in the region by holding conferences and focusing on having a simplified, unilateral approach that is clearly linked just to Iran are counterproductive,” Mr. Nebenzia told the council.

Diplomats said that the Polish Foreign Ministry has asked European foreign ministers to attend the conference, although some European diplomats speculated that Mr. Pompeo might even cancel the conference last minute due to low attendance or attendance by junior-level officials.

Diplomats said the Polish foreign minister on Tuesday briefly discussed the Warsaw conference at a meeting with foreign ministers and assured counterparts that Poland supports the Iran nuclear agreement and that it plans to give a readout of the meeting to Iran.

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, has slammed the conference as an “anti-Iran circus” and complained at Poland for co-hosting the event.

In September, during the annual UN General Assembly gathering, U.S. plans for a Security Council session on Iran hosted by President Trump were broadened to include nonproliferation issues after it became clear that other world leaders would disagree with Mr. Trump on Iran, according to council diplomats.

(Source: The Wall Street Journal)

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