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Netanyahu to meet Pence, Pompeo at Mideast summit in Warsaw

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (l) gave the assurance as he met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (r) for talks in Brasilia on the sidelines of the inauguration of Brazil's new president, Jair Bolsonaro
Thomas COEX (AFP/File)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he plans to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at this week’s summit on the Middle East in Warsaw.

At the start of his weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said his meeting with US officials will first and foremost address “how to continue preventing Iran from entrenching in Syria, how to thwart its aggression in the region and, above all, how to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.”

The Israeli premier accepted an invitation in January to address leaders and officials from around the world in the Polish capital on Tuesday for the “Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East.”

- (AFP)

The summit, co-sponsored by the US and Poland, was announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his trip to Bahrain earlier this month.

“We'll bring together dozens of countries from all around the world,” Pompeo said, announcing the February 13-14 event. "Countries will all come together to focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence."

Pompeo emphasized that the conference will include “an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence."

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif lashed out at Poland for hosting the summit, tweeting: “Polish Govt can’t wash the shame: while Iran saved Poles in WWII, it now hosts desperate anti-Iran circus.”

-Rebuff from the Palestinians-

The US state department said it invited Palestinian Authority officials to attend, adding that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner “is also confirmed to participate. He will discuss the administration’s efforts to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

It was not clear when the PA had been formally invited, as Palestinian leaders claimed in recent days that they had not been invited, but chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat unequivocally said on Friday that the PA would not attend.

THOMAS COEX (AFP)

“Regarding statements that we have been invited, we can say that only today there was some contact from the Polish side,” Erekat wrote on Twitter. “Our position remains clear: We are not going to attend this conference and reiterate that we have not mandated anyone to talk on behalf of Palestine.

Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, two top advisers to the US president tasked with negotiating a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, will also be going on a tour of Arab countries to exhibit the Trump's administration's plan, a White House official said on Thursday.

In a statement Thursday the Palestinian foreign ministry labelled the meeting "an American conspiracy intended to get the participants to adopt the US views on issues of the region, particularly the Palestine question".

It said the Palestinian government would ignore all conclusions made by the conference.

The Palestinian foreign ministry also criticized Trump for hailing the US embassy move in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

"The malicious intentions of this administration were reiterated by US President Donald Trump in his State of the Union speech to Congress in which he stressed continuing with the policy of absolute bias toward Israel," said the statement carried on official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

The Palestinians have refused to talk to the Trump administration since the US leader recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2017.

-Warming ties-

Netanyahu has warned about Iran’s hostile intentions and unfaithful nature for more than a decade, ultimately convincing US President Donald Trump that the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran was flawed and thus should be withdrawn.

The Israeli Prime Minister has repeatedly said that Sunni states have been making overtures to Israel, spurred by the perceived mutual threat of Iran which both accuse of fueling regional conflicts by supporting armed proxies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain.

A number of diplomatic breakthroughs happened in 2018, showing a sign of increasingly warmer ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

At the end of October, Netanyahu discussed "ways to advance the peace process in the Middle East” with Sultan Qaboos of Oman when the Israeli premier made a rare visit to the Gulf nation.

Days later, controversial Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev toured the UAE's famed Sheikh Zayed mosque, Israel's communications minister Ayoub Kara spoke in Dubai and the Israeli national anthem played at a judo competition in Abu Dhabi.

In November, Netanyahu welcomed Déby to Israel on a historic visit. Déby became the first leader of the Muslim-majority west African nation to visit Israel since its establishment in 1948.

Netanyahu then visited Chad on January 19, the first by a sitting Israeli prime minister -- bringing the number of countries that Israel has formal ties with to a record of 161.

Kobi Gideon (GPO)

Netanyahu and Deby signed an official memorandum restoring diplomatic ties following closed-door talks at the presidential palace in N'Djamena.

Another symbolic yet significant incident was Netanyahu’s comment on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which caused an international scandal when Turkey strongly implied that the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman had ordered the killing. According to US media, CIA also concluded that the crown prince ordered killing.

Netanyahu called the journalist’s murder “horrendous,” but at the same time urged the importance of Saudi Arabian stability for regional and global security.

“What happened in the Istanbul consulate was horrendous and it should be duly dealt with,” Netanyahu said. “Yet the same time I say it, it is very important for the stability of the world, for the region and for the world, that Saudi Arabia remain stable.

"Israel is making inroads into the Muslim world. This is the result of a great effort made over the last few years. We’re making history, and we’re turning Israel into a rising world power," Netanyahu said in a press conference alongside Deby.

"There are those who are trying to sabotage this visit, as with other visits, but without success. We are continuing on, up the mountain, to new heights."

Israel and Chad have not had formal relations since 1972, when the Arab-Israeli conflict drove a wedge between Israel and African countries -- many of which were embroiled in liberation struggles of their own.

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