Israel PM hails common front with Arabs on Iran in Warsaw talks

Friday, 15 February 2019 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of an international conference co-hosted by Washington in Warsaw and dominated by their shared hostility to Iran (AFP Photo/Janek SKARZYNSKI)


WARSAW, AFP: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday hailed as a breakthrough a conference in Warsaw where he is standing side-by-side with Arab powers to confront Iran, hoping their common front can pave the way to greater normalisation of relations. 

The United States initiated the two-day meeting in the Polish capital as it seeks to squeeze Iran, but the talks have drawn little interest from European powers which are deeply suspicious of President Donald Trump’s intentions. 

But Netanyahu voiced delight after an opening dinner Wednesday night at Warsaw’s Royal Castle where he spoke in the same room as top officials of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain -- none of which recognise the Jewish state. 

“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,” Netanyahu told reporters as he arrived for Thursday’s main session at a football stadium. “I think this marks a change and important understanding of what threatens our future, what we need to do to secure it, and the possibility that cooperation will extend beyond security in every realm of life,” he said. Netanyahu also met one-on-one with Oman’s foreign minister, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, after paying a rare visit to the sultanate last year. 

Israel only has diplomatic relations with two Arab countries, neighbouring Egypt and Jordan. But Gulf Arab leaders -- especially Saudi Arabia’s powerful, US-allied crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman -- have increasingly put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the back burner as they instead push to contain historic rival Iran. 

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, is taking part in the Warsaw conference where he will speak behind closed doors on the contours of a US peace proposal to be presented after Israeli elections in April. The Palestinian government is not attending and has called the conference an “American conspiracy”. It is refusing US mediation after Trump in 2017 recognised bitterly contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.