Lebanon said it will not take part in a conference that Poland is holding this week on the situation in the Middle East and Iran, citing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled attendance at the summit.
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil made the announcement Monday during a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.
The two-day Warsaw conference begins Wednesday and will be co-hosted by the US. Some 80 countries have been invited, including Israel. The conference is widely seen as aimed at isolating Iran, which was not invited.
“We explained why we will not be present at the Warsaw conference,” Bassil was quoted saying by the Naharnet news site. “Israel will be present and because of the orientation the conference is expected to take.”
“Lebanon is committed to the dissociation policy,” he added, referring to Beirut’s attempts to staying out of regional conflicts.
Iran enjoys wide influence in the country through the Hezbollah terror group, which along with allied parties holds a majority in parliament.
Lebanon is technically at war with Israel, and Lebanese officials avoid conferences where Israelis are present.
Netanyahu is scheduled to take off on Tuesday for Poland, where he is set to meet US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“The first issue on the agenda is Iran — how to continue preventing it from entrenching in Syria, how to thwart its aggression in the region and, above all, how to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said Sunday in his weekly cabinet meeting.
Efforts to thwart Iran’s aggression in the region, including its efforts to entrench itself militarily, its recent attempts to upgrade its ballistic missile arsenal and its nuclear ambitions are expected to take center stage at the summit, even though organizers said the conference’s objective is not to bash Iran.
The Palestinian Authority has also said it will not send representatives to the conference, as it continues its boycott of the Trump administration over its 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.