Iran warns Poland against hosting upcoming summit on Tehran’s regional influence

Islamic Republic summons Polish envoy over US-announced conference, says ‘hostile’ move could lead to ‘counter-action’

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a joint press conference with his Turkish and Azeri counterparts (unseen) on October 30, 2018, in Istanbul. (Ozan Kose/AFP)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a joint press conference with his Turkish and Azeri counterparts (unseen) on October 30, 2018, in Istanbul. (Ozan Kose/AFP)

Iran’s foreign ministry has summoned the Polish envoy to the country following an announcement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Poland will host an international conference on Iran and the Middle East in mid-February.

The official IRNA news agency reported on Sunday that Iran had conveyed its protest message to Poland’s Chargé d’Affaires Wojciech Unolt, demanding that Warsaw not go along with the “hostile move” by the United States against Tehran.

The statement quoted an unnamed Iranian official as saying that if the summit goes ahead, Iran will resort to unspecified “counter-action” toward Poland.

IRNA said “Poland’s charge d’affaires provided explanations about the conference.”

Separately, Iran’s culture ministry in a statement said it was suspending “Poland’s Film Week,” supposed to be held in Tehran in late January, until Warsaw mends its ways and starts applying “appropriate behavior” toward Tehran.

Poland’s Foreign Ministry in Warsaw could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday morning. However, Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said Saturday he hoped the conference will provide a new platform for international dialogue and allow the US and European Union to find a closer position on Iran.

Czaputowicz said Poland supported the EU’s efforts to preserve its nuclear agreement with Iran, but warned the deal alone would not keep Iran from “destabilizing” the region.

Pompeo said Friday that the US was organizing an international summit in Poland focusing on Iran’s Middle Eastern influence.

He made the announcement in an interview during a regional tour aimed at reassuring US allies after President Donald Trump’s shock decision to withdraw all American troops from Syria, which sparked concerns that Iran’s influence could grow.

“We’ll bring together dozens of countries from all around the world,” Pompeo told the Fox News network.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the ministry of foreign affairs in Cairo on January 10, 2019. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool/AFP)

They will “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,” the top US diplomat said.

The event will take place on February 13 and 14.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly been invited to participate.

After Pompeo’s announcement, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Friday on Twitter that the conference would bring shame on the Polish government and invoked how during World War II Iran saved Polish lives.

Iran hosted tens of thousands of Polish war refugees who were brought to the country after surviving work camps in the Soviet Union and before they migrated to then-emerging Israel, New Zealand and some African countries. Scores stayed on after the war, choosing to reside in Iran.

Zarif tweeted: “Polish Govt can’t wash the shame: while Iran saved Poles in WWII, it now hosts desperate anti-Iran circus.”

Tehran and Warsaw have had good relations. The balance of trade between the two nations was $230 million in 2017, up from 80 million in 2015 when Iran and world powers agreed to a landmark nuclear deal that curbed Tehran’s nuclear program in return for lifting harsh economic sanctions.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz speaks during a joint press conference with his Romanian counterpart (unseen) at the Romanian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Bucharest on February 1, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Daniel MIHAILESCU)

Pompeo brought the Trump administration’s anti-Iran message to Gulf Arab states on Friday as he continued his nine-nation tour of the Middle East. As part of his trip he is said to be promoting a US-backed initiative to form what some have termed an “Arab NATO,” which would bring the region together in a military alliance to counter threats from Iran.

Pompeo kicked off the Gulf portion of his tour after a stop in Cairo, where he delivered a scathing rebuke of former president Barack Obama’s Middle East policies that Obama had outlined in a 2009 address to the Arab and broader Muslim world.

In a speech entitled “A Force for Good: America’s Reinvigorated Role in the Middle East,” Pompeo accused the former president of “misguided” thinking that diminished America’s role in the region while harming its longtime friends and emboldening Iran.

Since withdrawing from the nuclear deal last year, the administration has steadily ratcheted up pressure on Tehran and routinely accuses the nation of being the most destabilizing influence in the region. It has vowed to increase the pressure until Iran halts what US officials describe as its “malign activities” throughout the Mideast and elsewhere, including support for rebels in Yemen, anti-Israel groups, and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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