European Union countries could snub an international conference on the Middle East scheduled to take place in Poland next month over concerns it is part of a US drive to ramp up pressure on Iran.

EU diplomats raised questions about the real agenda of the February 13-14 conference on Friday, saying it was organised at very short notice and noting that Iran did not appear to be invited.

An EU official said the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, had other commitments and would not attend.

An official told the Wall Street Journal that there was a lot of “uncertainty about the participation of many other EU member states at ministerial level”.

According to PressTV, one European diplomat said the bloc will not be “joining an anti-Iran coalition”. And a group of activists in the US and other countries signed a petition calling on European countries to boycott the summit.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the planned event as a “desperate anti-Iran circus”.

Tour of the Middle East

The summit, which was planned to be co-hosted by Poland and the US, was announced during US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s tour of the Middle East last week. 

Both governments said the event would focus on terror, extremism and missile proliferation in the region, and threats posed by proxy groups. 

But Pompeo told Fox News that the meeting would also “focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilising influence”.

During his tour, Pompeo said that the US is “redoubling” its efforts to put pressure on Iran and sought to convince allies that it is committed to fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria.

The choice of Poland as the host was seen by some as an effort to split the EU over Iran.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo  in Riyadh, on January 14 [File: Andrew Cabellero-Reynolds/Pool via AP]

Iran nuclear accord 

Last year, Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord and moved to reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

Other partners in the deal – including Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – sought to keep the agreement from unravelling, although in a shift earlier this week, the EU moved to impose some sanctions on Iranian entities.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said that while his country supported the EU’s efforts to maintain the nuclear deal, the agreement “does not stop Iran from activities destabilising the region” and he hoped the conference would bring closer the EU and US positions.

He said more than 70 countries were invited to the conference, including all EU members.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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