The foreign minister of Yemen on Thursday addressed Arab criticism for sitting next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a conference in Warsaw, saying “errors pertaining to protocol are the responsibility of the organizing parties.”
At the opening session of a Middle East conference in the Polish capital, Netanyahu was placed next to Khaled Alyemany. The Yemeni top diplomat was already in his seat when Netanyahu arrived, and as the latter sat down, the two men exchanged a brief smile.
Later, during a part of the session that was closed to the press, Netanyahu prepared to address the delegates but found that his microphone wasn’t functioning properly, according to US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt. Alyemany then let him use his.
Greenblatt joked about the incident on Twitter, calling it a “lighthearted moment” and suggesting it may be the unlikely first step in establishing cooperation between the rival countries, which have never had diplomatic relations.
A lighthearted moment- @netanyahu microphone was not working so FM of Yemen loaned him his microphone. @Netenyahu joked about the new cooperation between Israel and Yemen. Step by step… ???????? #WarsawSummit
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) February 14, 2019
Netanyahu and US leaders have hailed Arab leaders’ willingness to sit alongside Israel at the conference. Netanyahu and Arab officials also shared a stage during a group photo of meeting participants.
But Alyemany apparently met some criticism for being seen sitting beside the Israeli leader, leading him to note in a tweet that seating had not been up to him. He added that “The position of Yemen… on the Palestinian issue and its people and leadership is unwavering. Participation in Warsaw was not to discuss Palestine but to rally the international community to confront the Iranian expansionism in Yemen.”
Iran denies supplying Yemen’s Houthi rebels with weaponry. Saudi Arabia, the UN and Western countries maintain Tehran is supplying the Shiite fighters with arms.
The summit appeared to mark the first time an Israeli leader and senior Arab officials attended an international gathering centered on the Middle East since the 1991 Madrid peace conference, which set the stage for the landmark Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians.
Netanyahu on Thursday called on Arab states to continue normalizing relations with Israel, hailing the opening event of the so-called “Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East” as a “historic turning point,” because he was in the same room as the foreign ministers of 10 Arab countries.
“Yesterday was a historic turning point. In a room of some 60 foreign ministers and representatives of dozen of governments, an Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” he said.
Netanyahu’s office on Thursday leaked a video in which the foreign ministers of three Arab countries can be seen harshly attacking Iran and defending Israel, and in one case saying that confronting the Islamic Republic is more pressing than solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.