Lebanon won't attend Warsaw conference 'because of Israel'

Lebanese Foreign Minister says his country won't attend US-led summit on the Middle East because of Israel's presence there.

Elad Benari ,

Gebran Bassil
Gebran Bassil

Lebanon on Monday cited Israel as the reason that it will not attend this week’s US-led summit in Warsaw that will deal with Middle East-related issues.

“We explained why we will not be present at the Warsaw conference,” said Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, according to the Naharnet website. He noted that Lebanon will boycott the meeting because “Israel will be present and because of the orientation the conference is expected to take.”

“Lebanon is committed to the dissociation policy,” the minister added.

Lebanon is technically at war with Israel, and as such Lebanese officials avoid conferences in which Israelis are present.

Its refusal to participate in the conference could also stem from the support it is receiving from Iran. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who arrived in Beirut on Sunday, extended an offer for Iranian military assistance to the US-backed Lebanese army.

On Monday, Zarif met Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Hezbollah terrorist group which is Iran’s proxy in Lebanon.

The joint US-Polish conference, which was first announced last month by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, will be held on February 13 and 14 and host ministers from across the globe.

Pompeo invited Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to the conference, which was intended to discuss stability and freedom in the Middle East and focus on Iran’s regional influence.

Iran was angered by the conference and took action against Poland in protest, including the cancellation of a week dedicated to Polish films. A US official later clarified that the conference is not aimed at Iran, explaining that the conference would discuss the crises in Syria and Yemen as well as missile proliferation, cyber issues, human rights and refugees, with working groups then tasked with following up.

In addition, the conference is to deal with the Israel-Palestinian Authority (PA) peace process. US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, will also take part in the conference and is expected to provide an update on the Trump administration’s peace plan.

PA officials have been invited to the conference but have snubbed the invitation, as the PA has been boycotting the US ever since Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December of 2017.