Netanyahu invokes 'war' on Iran at Warsaw summit, then quickly backtracks

NEW YORK USA- JANUARY 26: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the media following a Security Council meeting on the situation in Venezuela at the United Nations headquarters in New York United States

The Warsaw meeting was a rare show of Middle East cooperation, bringing together Israel and Gulf Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia.

Netanyahu is one of the highest-ranking officials in attendance at the summit, alongside foreign ministers and officials from 60 other countries.

The remark came amid heightened tensions between Israel and Iran, with the former consistently expressing concern over Tehran's alleged "entrenchment" in the region, namely in Syria.

The meeting, which took place on the sidelines of a Warsaw-hosted, USA -sponsored worldwide conference on the Middle East, was lauded by each of the two sides.

Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel would not allow Iran and its ally Hezbollah to entrench themselves in neighbouring Syria where they are backing the Damascus regime against rebels and jihadists. For his part, Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah said, "People in the Middle East have suffered a lot because they have stuck to the past".

The Israeli prime minister's office later softened the statement to read "combatting Iran", but there's little doubt that Tehran remains a central focus of the ministerial meeting, even with a list of agenda items that include Syria and Yemen.

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"We're trying to expand the number of nations who are engaged and have a stake in the future of a peaceful and prosperous Middle East", Brian Hook, the state department's special representative for Iran, told Reuters news agency.

Around 60 delegations from around the world were expected to be received by Polish President Andrzej Duda at the Royal Castle in Warsaw for the two-day event, but key participants have made a decision to skip the conference.

The absence of foreign ministers from major European powers, Germany and France, highlights festering tensions with the European Union over US President Donald Trump's decision a year ago to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions.

"Iran isn't behaving like a normal country".

The meeting prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to call his own summit with representatives from Iran and Turkey, which is set to take place in Sochi on Thursday.

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