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Pompeo calls for ‘new era of cooperation’ on Middle East

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo delivers remarks at the Opening Plenary of the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East, in Warsaw, Poland on February 14, 2019. (U.S. State Department/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told an international conference in Warsaw that the United States wants a “new era of cooperation” to confront the challenges faced by countries in the Middle East.

“We want to bring together countries with an interest in stability to share their different views and break out of traditional thinking,” Pompeo told the opening session of the 60-country gathering sponsored by the United States and Poland.

“None of the region’s challenges will solve themselves,” Pompeo said. “We must work together for security.”

Citing a list of regional challenges ranging from Iran, Syria, and Yemen to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Pompeo said, “No one country will dominate the discussion today nor will any one issue dominate our talks.”

Earlier in the day, Pompeo said the world “can’t achieve peace and security in the Middle East without confronting Iran.”

Tehran has described the conference as a “circus.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is addressing the Warsaw meeting, told reporters that the event’s opening dinner late on February 13 marked “a historical turning point.”

“In a room of some 60 foreign ministers representative of dozens of governments, an Israeli prime minister, and the foreign ministers of the leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity, and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” he said.

However, many European countries sent only low-level officials, and European Union foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini is staying away.

Washington and its EU allies are at odds over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear agreement that saw Iran curtail its nuclear ambitions in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. EU states have criticized the move and sought to keep aspects of the deal in place.

Russia and China are also not participating in the Warsaw conference and neither are the Palestinians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to hold a simultaneous summit in the resort of Sochi with Iranian President Hassan Rohani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the future of war-ravaged Syria.

A U.S. administration official said late last month that the conference was “not an anti-Iran meeting or a coalition-building exercise,” but that Pompeo will discuss what the official called “Iran’s destructive policies in the region.”

Speaking to U.S. public broadcaster PBS from the Polish capital, Pompeo said on February 13 that “the threat from Middle East instability is real,” and that Iran had “enormous influence” on the region.

“There are shared interests there between the Saudis, between the Emiratis, between the Bahrainis, the Jordanians, the Israelis. All understand that their nations are at risk from Iran,” he said.

Addressing a press conference in Tehran earlier in the day, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that he believed the Warsaw conference was “dead on arrival.”

Moscow views with concern “U.S. attempts to impose unilateral geopolitical interests through initiatives presented as opinions of the entire international community,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in comments carried by the Interfax news agency.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the only senior official from a key European power to attend the Warsaw conference, said that he wanted to focus on ending the conflict in Yemen.

A Saudi-led coalition is fighting against Yemen’s Iran-backed Shi’ite Huthi rebels in an attempt to restore the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi.