March 19, 2019

The U.S. welcomes progress achieved during the Warsaw Ministerial on the Middle East

On the picture Mr Brian Hook, U.S. Special Representative for Iran. Photography the the State Department.

By Guido Lanfranchi.

Talking to the press in the wake of the “Ministerial to Promote Peace and Security in the Middle East”, U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Mr. Brian Hook, welcomed the presence of around seventy countries and the progress achieved through the discussions.

On February 13th and 14th, the United States and Poland jointly hosted the “Ministerial to Promote Peace and Security in the Middle East.” The Ministerial, which was held in Warsaw, Poland, was attended by delegations from around 70 countries, and focused on a wide range of issues related to peace and security in the Middle East. While Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had labelled the Ministerial as a “U.S. anti-Iran show”, the U.S. and Poland repeatedly stressed that the conference would focus on broader regional dynamics.

In the wake of the Ministerial, Mr. Brian Hook, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran, exposed the views of the U.S. administration on the conference and its results. Mr. Hook expressed his gratefulness to Poland for hosting the meeting, and thanked the almost seventy countries that attended it for their participation and contribution. He praised the Ministerial’s “very ambitious agenda”, which included a number of different themes such as regional crises, missile development and proliferation, cyber attacks, terrorism and illicit finance, underscoring the great importance that the U.S. administration attaches to these issues.

While many countries from all over the world attended the conference, a number of key states involved in the complex dynamics of the Middle East, such as Russia, Iran and Turkey, did not attend the meeting. Questioned about the lack of attendance from Turkish representatives, Mr. Hook clarified that Turkey had been invited, but decided to decline. Any request for clarification, therefore, should be referred to the Turkish side – he noted, while at the same time stressing that the two parties maintain close contacts on the developments in the Middle East.

As for Iran, another key Middle Eastern country which did not attend the meeting, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif delivered his rebuttal to the Ministerial a few days later. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, he accused the United States of interfering in the Middle East, defining the U.S. as “the single biggest source of destabilization in our neighbourhood”.

Special Representative Hook also clarified the state of the U.S.-Europe relationship with respect to Iran. Differences between the two allies’ positions remain, as exemplified by the U.S. negative reaction to the newly established INSTEX, a mechanism set up by the EU to keep up its exchanges with Iran in spite of U.S. sanctions. The U.S. State Department has repeatedly defined the EU position on this issue as regrettable, but at the same time Mr. Hook expressed confidence that no major businesses seem to be willing to run the risk of engaging with such entity thus antagonizing the U.S.

Moreover, Special Representative Hook clarified that the U.S. and the EU share very similar assessments concerning the threats posed by Iran more at large. In this regard, he praised the actions undertaken by several European countries against Iranian diplomats and citizens in response to the alleged Iranian involvement in a series of plots on European soil, and welcomed the sanctions imposed by the EU for Iran’s non-nuclear related activities.

Finally, Mr. Hook noted with pleasure that “Iran’s foreign policy has done an excellent job of driving Arab states and Israel much closer together”, and welcomed the progress made at the Ministerial in this regard.

As already made clear ahead of the Ministerial, the U.S. and its allies are intentioned to follow-up on the results of this conference and the consensus achieved on certain issues. As Mr. Hook reiterated in the wake of the Ministerial, “we want to, and we will have follow-on meetings from this”.

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