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Warsaw conference an exercise in futility: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-02-13 20:49
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Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz (right) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hold a news conference at Lazienki Palace in Warsaw, Poland Feb 12, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

The two-day Middle East conference that started in Poland's capital Warsaw on Wednesday proclaims it will help promote peace and stability in the region. But it is sailing against the wind if it wants to yield any substantial result. There will likely be "all thunder and no rain" — as the Chinese saying goes — given the deep divisions between the United States and its European allies on such key issues as the Iran nuclear deal, as well as the diverse agendas being pursued by the participating countries.

The foreign ministers and senior officials from 60 countries are attending the conference. But the absence of Federica Mogherini, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, and the foreign ministers of key European powers such as Germany and France suggests Europe is not going to fall in line behind the US on the Middle East, especially after Washington last year unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — the EU still wants to save the deal — and its decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, which Europe considers too hasty.

And the fact that Iran was not even invited, and its ally Russia declined to attend, suggests the meeting will be more like a trial by default against Iran — Washington has already accused Teheran of destabilizing the region and supporting terrorism, and vowed to change its "behavior" — rather than a platform for relevant parties to come together and find a solution to the problem they face through consultations and negotiations.

Teheran has already dubbed the conference an "anti-Iran circus" and has firmly protested at Poland hosting the event.

But even though Poland is lobbying the US for a permanent US base on its territory as part of its efforts to strengthen the Polish-US alliance against Russia, and thus wants to keep in Washington's good books, it has sought to emphasize that Iran is not the sole focus of the conference.

And though the US may want the focus to be on Iran, other participants also appear to have different priorities. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, for instance, said he primarily wants to use the event to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

The attendees will also be keen to hear the US plans for promoting peace between Palestinians and Israelis, which is also on the agenda, although the controversial decision by the White House to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last year has basically made it impossible for the US to continue playing its role as a peace intermediary.

The Palestinian government — which has called the Warsaw meeting an "American conspiracy" — has refused talks with the US until it implements a more balanced policy.

The quest for peace in the Middle East shall never cease, but unfortunately the Warsaw meeting despite its claim to be in pursuit of that purpose is unlikely to serve that end.

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