Middle East

Israel PM Netanyahu criticised after 'war against Iran' slip


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has drawn the ire of Iran after he appeared to accidentally infer his country was seeking war with its fellow Middle Eastern nation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sparked controversy with a remark about "war against Iran" as a major conference on the Middle East began in the Polish capital of Warsaw.

"What is important about this meeting - and this meeting is not in secret, because there are many of those - is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran," Netanyahu said in a video message, a Tweet and a statement from his office.

Retweeting him, Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif retorted: "We've always known Netanyahu's illusions. Now, the world - and those attending #WarsawCircus - know, too."

The video in which Netanyahu made the comment has since been deleted from Twitter and his office reissued the statement, replacing the word "war" with "combating."

Netanyahu is one of the participants in the conference, which was organised by the United States and Poland about peace and security in the Middle East.

It has been plagued by poor attendance and criticism that it has an anti-Iran agenda

Russia reviewed the agenda of the conference and decided not to attend, the Foreign Ministry said in comments carried by Russian news agency Interfax.

The US has routinely accused Tehran of engaging in a policy of destabilisation in the Middle East and of financing terrorism.

US President Donald Trump also unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last year and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

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 decided to skip the conference.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, among other Western European foreign ministers, has pulled out of the event.

The EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, declined due to scheduling difficulties.

Western European powers have criticized the US pull-out from the nuclear deal with Iran, seeking to salvage it with a mechanism to help European firms doing business with the Islamic Republic avoid US sanctions.

US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will take part, alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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