Iran’s Zarif says Warsaw meeting ‘dead on arrival’
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Iran’s Zarif says Warsaw meeting ‘dead on arrival’

Foreign minister says conference is part of US obsession with Tehran; claims lack of joint statement by participants shows Washington has no interest in exchange of views

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during a press conference in Tehran on February 13, 2019 (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during a press conference in Tehran on February 13, 2019 (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Wednesday that a two-day conference being co-hosted by Washington in Warsaw on Iran and the Middle East was “dead on arrival.”

“It is another attempt by the United States to pursue an obsession with Iran that is not well-founded,” Zarif told a Tehran news conference.

“The Warsaw conference, I believe, is dead on arrival.”

Zarif said not even Washington had any interest in the conference as a forum for an exchange of views among the 60 participating countries.

“I think the fact that they are not aiming to issue any agreed text but rather are just attempting to use their own statement on behalf of everybody else shows they don’t have any respect for it themselves,” he said.

“You usually don’t bring 60 countries and states together in order to speak for them. That indicates to you that they don’t believe they have anything to gain from this meeting.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Brasilia on January 1, 2019 (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Much of the schedule for the conference remains vague amid deep divisions over policy towards the region, where Washington has adopted the deep hostility towards Iran of its allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The US and Poland have insisted that the conference’s objective is not to bash Iran.

Palestinians officials, meanwhile, have described the meeting as an effort by the US to advance its anti-Palestinian positions.

A White House official last week told reporters the Palestinians had been invited to the conference.

The PA has boycotted the US administration since President Donald Trump’s 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move it said meant the US could no longer serve as a mediator in peace talks.

Ties between the sides have continued to fray since then, with the US moving to end aid it provides to Palestinians and cut funding to Abbas over his refusal to enter negotiations and Ramallah’s payments to terror convicts and their families.

Jared Kushner is seen during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on May 9, 2018. (Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images via JTA)

According to a US official, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner will discuss the White House’s peace efforts during the conference and take questions from the audience.

The US peace plan reportedly includes an economic development proposal for Palestinians that foresees major infrastructure and industrial work, particularly in Gaza. For the plan to succeed or even pass the starting gate, it will need at least initial buy-in from both Israel and the Palestinians as well as from the Gulf Arab states, which officials say will be asked to substantially bankroll the economic portion.

Washington will be represented by both US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, but major European allies are sending low-profile delegations amid unease over Trump’s strident calls to strangle Iran’s economy.

The main session will take place on Thursday when Pence, Pompeo and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are all scheduled to address the conference.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking with reporters at Ben Gurion Airport before his departure to a conference in Poland, February 11, 2019. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Netanyahu, who has vowed to keep striking Iranian forces until they leave war-torn Syria and has not ruled out a military strike to destroy Iran’s remaining nuclear facilities, is likely to deliver a fiery address.

Netanyahu will reportedly be looking to use the summit, to be attended by several high-ranking officials from Muslim countries in the region, to help expand ties with the Arab world.

The summit appears to be the first time an Israeli leader and senior Arab officials will attend an international conference centered on the Middle East since the Madrid peace conference in 1991, which set the stage for the landmark Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu said before taking off for Warsaw that Iran, and not Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, would be the centerpiece of talks at the summit, and slammed European countries for continuing to work with Iran.

But outside of Israel, Iran’s Arab rivals and the Trump administration, nearly all countries still back an accord negotiated under previous US president Barack Obama under which Iran agreed to accept tight limits to its nuclear activities in return for the easing of crippling economic sanctions.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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