World powers gather for Warsaw Middle East summit expected to pressure on Iran

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Saudi's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir attending the Middle East conference at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. (Reuters)
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 Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the start of the meeting in Warsaw. (Screengrab)
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A family photo from the start of the conference in Warsaw. (Reuters)
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Iranian communities in Europe hold a rally to protest against Iranian government's human rights violations during a global summit focused on the Middle East and Iran in Warsaw. (Reuters)
Updated 14 February 2019
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World powers gather for Warsaw Middle East summit expected to pressure on Iran

  • Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir attends the opening ceremony
  • Hundreds protest against the Iranian regime ahead of the meeting

WARSAW: US, Arab and Israeli leaders gathered Wednesday in Warsaw for a conference expected to pile pressure on Iran.

The event is attended by about 60 countries and the agenda also covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the fight against Daesh, Syria and Yemen. 

But the bulk of the focus will be on Iran, and how to curtail the regime’s aggressive foreign policy in the region. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz greeted the attendees at the opening ceremony, including Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir.

The Kingdom’s ambassador to the US, Prince Khalid bin Salman, said Saudi Arabia joined the conference “to take a firm stand against forces that threaten the future of peace and security in the region.”

“Especially the world's leading sponsor of terrorism: the Iranian regime that continues to destabilize our region and launch ballistic missiles against civilians,” Prince Khalid said.

Ahead of the two-day meeting, hundreds of people took part in an Iranian opposition demonstration in Warsaw on Wednesday. Speakers at the event included the former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

“The Iranian regime has been facing a popular uprising in Iran for a year and has not been able, despite using all kinds of repression, to control or quell this uprising, so it has once again started to export terrorism to the world and plan terrorist operations,” Sanabargh Zahedi, Chairman of the Judicial Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, told Arab News.

“We now want to confront this phenomenon and call upon the international community to take firmer steps against this regime.”

Pressure has been growing on Iran since Donald Trump last year withdrew the US from a deal designed to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

European powers stuck with the accord and their unhappiness at Trump’s move was reflected by a reduced presence in Warsaw.

Predictably, Iran also voiced its disapproval at the meeting. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad said: “It is another attempt by the United States to pursue an obsession with Iran that is not well-founded.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Vice President Mike Pence will headline the conference on Thursday.

Netanyahu is keen to build closer ties with Arab countries which share his concern of the Iranian threat in the region, particularly the presence of Iranian proxy militias in Syria where Israel carried out further strikes on Monday.

“We are operating every day … against Iran and its attempts to establish its presence in the area,” said Netanyahu.

Ahead of the summit he met with Oman’s foreign minister Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, in rare public talks with an Arab leader.

The Omani minister said people in the Middle East have “suffered a lot” because they stick to the past. He said Wednesday's meeting reflects a “new era” for the region.

The US is also hoping to make progress with a peace plan for Israel and Palestine. Trump adviser Jared Kushner will make a rare speaking appearance at the conference, possibly to offer hints of what the deal may include.

Nathan Tek, US State Department spokesman in the Middle East, told Arab News that the broad agenda of the conference, will reinvigorate efforts to address the region’s many challenges by “revitalizing our alliances and partnerships.”

“From weapons proliferation and humanitarian crises, to terrorism and energy security, these issues and others pose serious threats to stability in the region and to security around the world,” he said. 

“(The conference) will provide countries an opportunity to share their assessments of the region and offer ideas on how to solve our shared problems.”

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is attending the event, said he wanted to focus on ending the crisis in Yemen, AFP reported.

Hunt met Tuesday evening in Warsaw jointly with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior officials from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are both supporting the Yemeni government against the Iran-backed Houthis as part of a regional military coalition.

Hunt said he hoped to expand on a seven-week ceasefire that has largely held in the crucial port city of Hodeida.

“We now have a shortening window of opportunity to turn the ceasefire into a durable path to peace - and stop the world's worst humanitarian crisis,” Hunt said.

 

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Day one of the Warsaw Middle East Conference as it happened

All times in GMT

6 p.m.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz greet the attendees including Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir.

5.45 p.m

The opening ceremony for the two day conference gets under way in Warsaw. 

5.40 p.m.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US, Khalid bin Salman, said Saudi Arabia joins the  Warsaw Summit "to take a firm stand against forces that threaten the future of peace and security," in particular Iranian.

3 p.m.

Hundreds of people attend an anti -Iran demonstration in Warsaw.

Sanabargh Zahedi, Chairman of the Judicial Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, told Arab news: 

"The Iranian regime has been facing a popular uprising in Iran for a year and has not been able, despite using all kinds of repression, to control or quell this uprising, so it has once again started to export terrorism to the world and plan terrorist operations.

"We now want to confront this phenomenon and call upon the international community to take firmer steps against this regime."

2.45 p.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Oman's foreign minister Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah ahead of the Warsaw meeting.
In a video released by Netanyahu's office, the Omani foreign minister, said people in the Middle East have "suffered a lot" because they stick to the past. He said Wednesday's meeting reflects a "new era" for the region.


Key events in Egypt since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. (Supplied)
Updated 26 min 34 sec ago
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Key events in Egypt since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising

CAIRO: Here are key events in eight years of turmoil and transition in Egypt, leading up to a national referendum on constitutional amendments that could allow President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to remain in power until 2030.

● Feb. 11, 2011: Autocrat Hosni Mubarak steps down after 18 days of nationwide protests against his nearly 30-year rule. The military takes over, dissolving Parliament and suspending the constitution after the uprising leaves hundreds of protesters dead in clashes with security forces.

● Nov. 28, 2011-Feb. 15, 2012: The Muslim Brotherhood wins nearly half the seats in multi-stage elections for the first post-Mubarak Parliament.

● June 30, 2012: The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Muhammad Mursi takes office as Egypt’s first freely elected president.

● Aug. 12, 2012: Mursi removes the defense minister and military chief, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and replaces him with El-Sisi.

● Nov. 22, 2012: Mursi unilaterally decrees greater powers for himself, a move that sparks days of protests.

● Dec. 15-22, 2012: Egyptians approve a constitution drafted and hastily passed by Parliament amid protests and walkouts by other groups.

● June 30, 2013: On Mursi’s anniversary in office, millions of Egyptians begin days of demonstrations demanding his resignation. The military gives him 48 hours to reach an agreement with his opponents, but he vows to remain in office.

● July 3, 2013: El-Sisi announces Mursi’s removal.

● Aug. 14, 2013: More than 600 people, mostly Mursi supporters, are killed when police clear two pro-Mursi sit-ins in Cairo. Mursi supporters retaliate by torching government buildings, churches and police stations. Hundreds more die in subsequent violence.

● Dec. 25, 2013: The government designates the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

● May 26-28, 2014: Egyptians vote in a presidential election. El-Sisi wins with 96.9 percent of the vote.

● May 16, 2015: Mursi and more than 100 others are sentenced to death over a mass prison break during the 2011 uprising.

● Oct. 2015: Egypt holds parliamentary elections, leading to an assembly packed with El-Sisi supporters.

● April 2, 2018: El-Sisi wins a second, four-year term in office, with more than 97 percent of the vote.
● Feb. 2019: Lawmakers submit proposed amendments to the constitution that allow El-Sisi to remain in power beyond his current second four-year term.

● April 10: President Donald Trump welcomes El-Sisi to the White House for a second official visit.

● April 17: The Parliament, packed with El-Sisi’s supporters, overwhelmingly passes the proposed amendments.

● April 18: Egypt’s National Election Authority schedules three days of voting in a nationwide referendum on the amendments. The vote takes place Saturday through Monday.